A mosque, a synagogue and a church are part of a colossal interfaith complex set to become one of the most prominent structures in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Named after Abraham, the Judeo-Christian patriarch who is also honored by all three faiths, the Abrahamic Family House is a symbol of religious unity. It is the first building of its kind in the UAE, a Muslim-majority country whose jurisprudence combines civil and Islamic law.
The two religious leaders signed a document on “human fraternity for world peace and living together,” which the Vatican described as an “important step forward in the dialogue between Christians and Muslims.”
Besides stressing “freedom of belief” and the “promotion of a culture of tolerance,” it calls for the protection of places of worship and full citizenship rights for minorities.
The interfaith center is designed by Sir David Adjaye, a Ghanaian-British architect known for his community-driven projects. Based on iconic cubic architecture, the complex features three houses of worship, each comprising equal cubic volume, and façades that ensure no single building is predominant.
From the inside, architectural themes of each house of worship are unique, reflecting distinct religious motifs:
The mosque, named “Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque,” highlights various prescribed sequences of devotional action in Islamic prayer.
The “Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue” is inspired by the woven leaves of four species of palm fronds that observant Jews carry during the festival of Sukkot, a week-long Jewish holiday that follows five days after Yom Kippur.
And the “St. Francis Church” uses light and water to honor holy elements in the Christian faith.
A cultural center will be located near the interfaith complex, to “encourage people to exemplify human fraternity and solidarity within a community that cherishes the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, while the unique character of each faith is preserved,” according to the website of the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office.
Members of the three religious communities from around the world were consulted to ensure that each faith’s teachings were incorporated in the design of the complex. “Once complete,” says the media office, “the final design of the three buildings will ensure there are enough spaces that offer their visitors real peace of mind and soul within an atmosphere in which a spirit of intimacy prevails.”
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