The Abrahamic House of Fraternity in Abu Dhabi, which includes a large synagogue, is designed to foster tolerance and mutual appreciation among people of different faiths.
By United With Israel Staff
On Friday in New York, an organization called the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity unveiled a design for the Abrahamic House, a unique complex that will include a mosque, church and the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first official synagogue on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.
The project was initiated in response to Pope Francis and Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, signing the Document on Human Fraternity in February, during the pontiff’s visit to Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital. The document called for the “reconciliation of people from all faiths and goodwill in service of universal peace.”
This was the first visit by a pope to the Arabian Peninsula.
The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was formed following the declaration and maintains an interfaith council whose purpose is to advance tolerance. The Abrahamic Family House is its first initiative. It is meant to serve as a place for religious tolerance and education.
The building is named after the biblical Abraham, who spread the concept of one God and denounced idol worship and paganism.
Designed by renowned British architect Sir David Adjaye, the three main buildings will provide places for Jews, Christians and Muslims to worship. All three structures will be the same height with interiors significantly different as appropriate for the religion.
Each house of worship will have its own entrance. However, each building will also lead to a central garden, under which will sit a museum and center for education. From the garden, visitors will be able to peer into all three buildings.
A New Paradigm
“There has never been a building that has the three faiths in one form,” Adjaye said to The National. “I wanted to see if we could make a building that has the unique experience of each of the faiths but to connect them all with the one device. And that is the garden.” The designer also noted that this is “a once in a generation moment.”
Each congregation will pray in the direction most holy to their religion. The mosque will be orientated towards Mecca. The synagogue will face Jerusalem. The church’s altar will point east towards the sun.
The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity said that it chose to present the design now in order for it to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of world leaders meant to spread harmony and understanding.
“We will invoke acceptance and education of other faiths not only to citizens of the UAE and citizens of the region but to the millions of tourists who come to Abu Dhabi,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the UAE’s Department of Culture and Tourism, according to The National. “They will see that message of love and hope.”
In response to the unveiling of The Abrahamic Family House proposal, Bruce Lustig, senior clergy member at Washington Hebrew Congregation, the US capital’s largest and oldest Jewish house of worship, said he was honored to participate at a time when “no place of religious worship seems immune from hate, or from violence,” reported The National.
“In a world that is often dark and fractured, the Family House is a blazing hope for the future,” Lustig said. “We are interested in faith over fear, justice over injustice. Our mutual respect and understanding should safeguard our whole human family.”
Construction is set to begin next year and expected to be completed in 2022.
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