Christianity in the United Arab Emirates

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Christians account for 13 percent of the total population of the United Arab Emirates, according to a ministry report, which collected census data.[1][2]

The government recognises various Christian denominations.[3] Christians are free to worship and wear religious clothing, if applicable. The country has Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches along with Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.[4] Although Christian women can marry Muslim men freely, marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men is forbidden.[5]

The importation and sale of religious material is allowed; however, attempts to spread Christianity among Muslims are not permitted. Non-Muslim religious leaders reported that customs authorities rarely questioned the entry of religious materials such as Bibles and hymnals into the country.[3] Conversion from Islam is not permitted.[3][6] In spite of this, a 2015 study estimated some 200 believers in Christ from a Muslim background, though not all of those are necessarily citizen of the UAE.[7] Public schools have no Christian religious education.

On December 25, 2007, the President's Religious Affairs Advisor Al Sayyed Ali al-Hashemi participated in Anglican Church celebrations of Christmas.[3][8]


In pre-Islamic times, the population of Eastern Arabia consisted of Christianized Arabs (including Abd al-Qays) and Aramean Christians among other religions.[9] Syriac functioned as a liturgical language.[10][11] Serjeant states that the Baharna may be the Arabized descendants of converts from the original population of Christians (Aramaeans), among other religions at the time of Arab conquests.[12] Beth Qatraye which translates "region of the Qataris" in Syriac was the Christian name used for the region encompassing north-eastern Arabia.[13][14] It included Bahrain, Tarout Island, Al-Khatt, Al-Hasa, and Qatar.[15] Oman and the United Arab Emirates comprised the diocese known as Beth Mazunaye. The name was derived from 'Mazun', the Persian name for Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Sohar was the central city of the diocese.[13][15]

Roman Catholicism[edit]

The Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome. Expatriates in the country who are Catholics are largely Filipinos, Indians, South Americans, Lebanese, Africans, Germans, Italians, Ukrainians, Portuguese, Spanish, French and other Europeans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans . The United Arab Emirates forms part of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia and the Vicar Apostolic Bishop Paul Hinder is based in Abu Dhabi.[16]

There are currently 9 churches in the region:

Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

Eastern Orthodox Christians in UAE traditionally belong to the jurisdiction of Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Eastern Orthodox parishes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi were organized in 1980 by late Metropolitan Constantine Papastephanou of Baghdad and Kuwait (1969-2014), who also had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Eastern Orthodox in UAE.[17] Since 1989, parish in Abu Dhabi was administered by priest Stephanos Neaimeh. After the retirement of Metropolitan Constantine in 2014, the Holy Synod of Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch decided to establish an Exarchate for Eastern Orthodox in UAE. In the same time, auxiliary Bishop Gregorios Khoury was appointed head of the newly established Exarchate, subjected directly to Patriarch John X of Antioch who personally visited UAE in the spring of 2014 and inaugurated the construction of new Eastern Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Elias in Abu Dhabi.[18]


Among the Protestant denominations in the country are the Christian Brethren, the Coptic Evangelical Church and the Evangelical Alliance Church.[19] Other denominations are the Arab Evangelical Church of Dubai, Dubai City Church, Fellowship of the Emirates, and the United Christian Church of Dubai.[20] The Anglican Communion is represented by the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The large number of migrants from the South Indian state of Kerala follow Christianity, predominantly from the Christian belt of Central Kerala. The denominations represented by this community includes the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, Knanaya, Pentecostalism (including Indian Pentecostal Church of God, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Assemblies of God USA, among others) and numerous other evangelical and non-denominational independent groups.

Sharjah houses a church district in Al Yarmook Area which includes places of worship for Coptics, Armenians, Keralites, Filipinos, etc.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "United Arab Emirates: International Religious Freedom Report 2007". U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  2. ^ "United Arab Emirates: International Religious Freedom Report 2006". U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 2006-09-15. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  3. ^ a b c d "United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 2012-02-23.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Marriage - The Official Portal of the UAE Government". Retrieved 2019-02-02.
  6. ^ United States Department of State
  7. ^ Johnstone, Patrick; Miller, Duane Alexander (2015). "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census". IJRR. 11: 17. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Houtsma 1993, p. 98.
  10. ^ Smart 1996, p. 305.
  11. ^ Cameron 2002, p. 185.
  12. ^ Holes 2001, p. XXIV-XXVI.
  13. ^ a b "Nestorian Christianity in the Pre-Islamic UAE and Southeastern Arabia", Peter Hellyer, Journal of Social Affairs, volume 18, number 72, winter 2011, p. 88
  14. ^ "AUB academics awarded $850,000 grant for project on the Syriac writers of Qatar in the 7th century AD". American University of Beirut. 31 May 2011. Archived from the original on 28 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  15. ^ a b Kozah & Abu-Husayn 2014, p. 24.
  16. ^ "New Apostolic Vicar for Arabia Appointed". Zenit News Agency. March 21, 2005. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
  17. ^ Memory Eternal: Metropolitan Constantine (Papastephanou)
  18. ^ Eastern Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Elias in Abu Dhabi
  19. ^ World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001 edition, Volume 1, page 771/772
  20. ^ "Who is DECC". Retrieved 2012-02-23.


  • Cameron, Averil (2002), The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-134-98081-9
  • Holes, Clive (2001), Dialect, Culture, and Society in Eastern Arabia: Glossary, Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-10763-2
  • Houtsma, Martijn Theodoor, ed. (1993), E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 5, Brill, ISBN 978-90-04-09791-9
  • Kozah, Mario; Abu-Husayn, Abdulrahim (2014), The Syriac Writers of Qatar in the Seventh Century, Gorgias Press, LLC, ISBN 978-1-4632-0355-9
  • Smart, J. R. (1996), Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Language and Literature, Psychology Press, ISBN 978-0-7007-0411-8

External links[edit]