UAE best place for religious tourism: Sikh leader

“To add to the joy and sense of wellbeing, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, bestowed a piece of land free of charge for the Sikhs to build their temple,” says Surender Singh Kandhari. (Photo courtesy: Gurudwara​)
Updated 24 December 2018

UAE best place for religious tourism: Sikh leader

  • The UAE has declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance

DUBAI: The UAE is the best place for religious tourism given the diversity and beauty of its places of worship, said the chairman of the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Dubai, the largest Sikh temple in the Gulf.




Be it mosques, churches, or Sikh or Hindu temples, “all these places of worship showcase the beauty of peace and tolerance in the UAE,” Surender Singh Kandhari, who has been living in the country since 1975, told Arab News. (Photo courtesy: Gurudwara GuruNanak Darbar, Dubai)

The UAE has declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance. Kandhari said the country is a living example of tolerance and being a bridge between peoples of different cultures in a respectful environment that rejects extremism and emphasizes acceptance of the other.

“It’s the only country where more than 180 different nationalities live together in harmony. You can’t find such an example anywhere in the world,” he added.

“This is perhaps the only country where followers of every faith will find their places of worship. These places aren’t meant for worship only. They’re gorgeous pieces of art and architecture,” he said.

“Every building has its own story to share, and everyone is welcome to find solace in any place of worship. Everyone is allowed to go to any place of worship. This kind of peace and tolerance one can’t find in any other part of the world.”

Visionary leadership

The multi-story gurdwara was opened in January 2012 at a cost of more than $20 million.

Praising the UAE’s construction of a Sikh temple “in the heart of an Islamic state,” Kandhari said: “To add to the joy and sense of wellbeing, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, bestowed a piece of land free of charge for the Sikhs to build their temple.”

Kandhari added: “This could only happen in a country such as the UAE, which has such a visionary and big-hearted leadership.”


Turkish Armenians worried about govt meddling in spirituality

Updated 10 December 2019

Turkish Armenians worried about govt meddling in spirituality

  • The country’s Armenian community has about 70,000 members

ANKARA: Ahead of the election of the 85th patriarch of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey on Dec. 11, the Turkish Ministry of Interior set the condition that candidates must be based in Turkey, sparking criticisms by many, seeing it as an interference in the spiritual functioning of the patriarchate.

The legal condition decreased the number of candidates from 12 to just two who meet the requirement. The election will therefore be between two Istanbul-based Armenian clergymen, Aram Atesyan and Sahak Mashalyan.

Historically the legitimate condition of eligibility applied in previous patriarchal elections was being born into an Armenian family from Turkey.

The country’s Armenian community has about 70,000 members. About 1,000 voters out of 15,000 eligible voters boycotted the first round of elections, held between Dec. 7-8, calling into question the legitimacy of the process.

The second round of the elections will be held on Dec. 11 when the elected delegates will choose the next patriarch. Mashalyan is considered the favorite.

“This restriction may lead to the end of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate, because we may find no candidate in the next elections,” Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said. Paylan considered the attempt an intervention into the Armenian community’s own religious freedoms.

“It is totally unjust. Religion requires conscience and justice,” he said. During previous patriarch elections in Turkey, many Armenian clerics from around the world could have attended.

Sebuh Çulciyan, who was a close friend of assassinated Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and now lives in Armenia, was also a candidate for the election. But, due to the new regulations, he couldn’t run.

Former Patriarch Mesrop Mutafyan, who was allegedly elected in 2008 against the wishes of the Turkish government and became weakened under much pressure, had been suffering from dementia, pushing the government to replace him with Ateshian in 2010 as General Vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey.

Armenian Apostolic Church tradition requires that a patriarch must either die or resign from his position before his successor is elected.

Ateshian has been criticized by many people in the Armenian community as being too open to Turkish government propaganda.

In 2017, Karekin Bekchiyan, another Armenian cleric, was elected governor of the patriarchate. While the Ministry of Interior did not respond to a petition for the elections coming from the Armenian community that were sent in August 2017, the local authorities of Istanbul, where the patriarchate is based, denounced the legal proceedings regarding the election of Bekchiyan and declared his decisions invalid.

Rober Koptas, an Armenian publisher in Istanbul, told Arab News that the feeling of victimhood among the Armenian community in Turkey was causing alienation from the church.

The inability to elect a patriarch for almost a decade, and the dependency on political will, had, he said, seriously harmed Turkey’s Armenian community.

Turkey’s historical relations with Armenia have been generally hostile, while the US House of Representatives recently took a landmark decision to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, angering decision-makers in Ankara.