United Arab Emirates – Strengthening intercultural, inter-religious formation and faith: the missionary animation visit by Fr Alfred Maravilla to the United Arab Emirates

02 April 2024

(ANS – Fujairah) - Fr Alfred Maravilla, General Councillor for the Missions, was on a mission animation visit to the Salesian community of Fujairah in the UAE from 27 to 31 March 2024.

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates along the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The largest of these emirates, Abu Dhabi, comprises more than three-quarters of the federation's total land area. Fujairah is one of the smaller emirates. Since the opening of the new container port in the early 1980s, the city of Fujairah has become a major trans-shipment point. Christians are free to worship in the UAE, but the spread of Christianity among Muslims is strictly prohibited.

Salesians from the Province of Chennai arrived in 2007 at the invitation of the Capuchin Apostolic Vicar, to administer St Mary’s Catholic High School in the Apostolic Vicariate. They were also entrusted with the pastoral care of the nearby Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish.

The school has about 2,500 students, from kindergarten to 12th grade, from 40 countries. Visa and emigration policies represent a major challenge. Three Salesians work in the school and, although the institute is “Catholic”, government policies do not allow the proclamation of the Gospel and faith formation for Christian students. However, school is an agora where children of different faiths work side by side and experience the value of tolerance and respect for a healthy human society.

"Our presence in the school is important because it is a Catholic witness among the vast majority of young people who are not Christians" Fr Maravilla stress, "Therefore, our presence is important and even necessary. If we were to leave, the Catholic witness among these young people would disappear ”added the General Councillor for the Missions.

In 2020, there were almost 850,000 foreign workers and their dependent Catholic family members in the UAE, representing almost 9% of the total population. The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, entrusted to the Capuchins since 1916, comprises Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The UAE's 10 parishes, which cater to immigrant foreign workers, are international, intercultural and inter-ritual.

Two Salesians work in the parish, "which is aimed at people from different cultures and Catholic rites" Fr Maravilla went on to say. "Our pastoral care for these migrants, in a context in which the life of faith and the Christian life are difficult and are always questioned, is an important missionary work. Nourishing and strengthening the faith of these migrant workers will allow them to pass it on to their children", concluded the General Councillor who, before leaving, encouraged the Salesian community to always remember that theirs is a very important apostolate for the Congregation.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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