A government-funded complex containing houses of worship for the three three Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – was inaugurated Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
The Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island includes the Emirates’ first-ever purpose builtsynagogue, which was to hold Friday morning services led by UAE Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna. On Sunday, the synagogue was also to dedicate a Torah scroll gifted by Emirati President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The site officially opens on March 1.
The three houses of worship have been named St. Francis of Assisi Church, Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque and Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue.
A conference on multi-faith relations was also set to take place on Friday, with speakers including UAE Minister for Tolerance and Coexistence Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan; Cardinal Miguel Ángel AyusoGuixot, named by Pope Francis as president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; and Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee’s Jerusalem-based International Director of Interreligious Affairs.
The House derives its name from Biblical patriarch Abraham, said to be the father of the three faiths, as do the Abraham Accords normalization agreements signed in 2020 between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco.
The construction of the House was announced following Pope Francis’ landmark February 2019 visit to the UAE, during which he signed the Document on Human Fraternity alongside Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb.
The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities hailed the UAE as “a beacon of light” for opening the House.
“There is something very special about a synagogue being built in a Muslim country and it sends a very strong message to other countries where Jewish people live in fear of being attacked for their beliefs,” it said.
“In many Western countries, antisemitism is at an all-time high. The opening of the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue in the Abrahamic Family House sends a powerful message that the leadership is not only ensuring our safety but encouraging our practice by building this beautiful synagogue for us to use.”