Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

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Paul Griffiths started playing the organ at 10 years old. (Supplied)
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Griffiths uses his vacation leaves to play the organ. (Supplied)
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Girffiths will accompany the choir on Feb. 5, along with a 10-member brass ensemble. (Supplied)
Updated 01 February 2019

Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

  • CEO of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths is the lead organist at the papal mass on Feb. 5
  • When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax

DUBAI: Better known for his role as the CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths, will be playing the organ at the mass lead by Pope Francis on Tuesday, Feb. 5, before a congregation of 135,000 people at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.
It will be the first time a Catholic Pope has visited the UAE and the wider Gulf and a first for the 61-year-old British expat.
“It’s my first time performing in a Catholic mass with such large resources, and such a huge choir,” Griffiths, who is an Anglican, told Arab News.
“It will be a most historic occasion for the UAE. It’s just the most fantastic opportunity to demonstrate peace and tolerance, and I think, in the world, we need a lot of that,” he said.
Asked if he would be able to meet the pope, he replied: “I’m not sure that that is actually possible, but if it did actually happen, it would be an astonishing opportunity.”
“But just the honor of playing the organ at a mass, which he is celebrating, that’s quite an astonishing situation.”
Griffiths joined Dubai Airports as CEO in October 2007 – a year later he led the launch of Terminal 3 – the world’s largest – at Dubai International Airport.
On June 27, 2010 he was at the forefront of the opening of the emirate’s second international airport – Dubai World Central.
But Griffiths is not just a veteran of the airport business, he started learning to play the organ when he was a child.
“I was 10 when my friend asked to me to join the church choir. At the time, I wasn’t really interested in music, but he persuaded me,” he said.
The moment he saw the church organ, he said he had a “real moment” of self-discovery.
“For about the next 10 years after I started, all I wanted to do was be a cathedral organist,” he added.
But Griffiths said his father was less enthusiastic about him pursuing music as a profession.
“He persuaded me that music was a good hobby, but a very bad profession,” he said, adding that instead he chose a career path that led him to the top of the aviation industry.
“Although I didn’t agree with my father at the time, in hindsight, it was the right decision.”
But he did not give up on music, and now Griffiths manages a schedule of concert and recital engagements, including performances that have placed him alongside major orchestras.
“I am a great believer that life is about living to the full. I try very hard to give all my time and effort to running all the airports, and in my spare time, the little that I have, I do a lot of organ practice and preparations,” he said.
Griffiths is so committed to his music that he said he uses much of his annual leave for his favorite pass-time.
“I’ve got lots of things coming up. I’m playing in the UK in May, and I’m doing two concerts in the US in June,” he revealed.
When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax.
“I can have a really tough and long day getting everything together, but when I come home, I sit at the organ and practice quite tough music, and within a couple of pages, all the troubles of the day are gone,” he said.
Griffiths is even married to a musician, Joana Marsh, who works full time as a classical composer, working with orchestras and choirs around the world. The passion for music runs in the family, as his son is also a musician, playing the French horn.
The pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi coincides with the Human Fraternity Conference – an interfaith event that will bring together religious leaders under one roof – it is also the UAE’s Year of tolerance.
Although Christian, Griffiths is not a Catholic – he is a member of the Anglican church – that blending of faiths on the same stage, he said, was “an important statement for mankind.”
“It doesn’t matter what faith or religion we are, the fact that we can come together to celebrate such a historic thing and all be together in the same place… it will remind us that despite our differences, we are all flesh and blood,” he added.


South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

Updated 13 October 2019

South Sudan says will host peace talks between Sudan and rebels

  • Hamdok will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile

JUBA: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok will attend peace talks in the South Sudan capital Monday with rebel leaders from several Sudanese states, said official sources in Juba.
“Tomorrow’s meeting is to mark the launching of Sudan’s peace talks,” Ateny Wek Ateny, spokesman for South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, told AFP Sunday.
Hamdok, who was only appointed in August in a deal between the army and the opposition, will meet rebel leaders from the Sudanese states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Kiir, who just a few weeks ago signed his own peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar, offered to mediate between Sudan and the rebels back in November 2018.
This new set of talks follow a first round in September when both sides agreed on a road map for the negotiations.
This week’s meeting is intended to tackle the main issues, said Ateny.
Also attending will be Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who last week won the Nobel Peace Prize, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Their presence, said Ateny, was to give the talks more weight.
A senior Sudanese delegation arrived in Juba on Sunday.
The Sudanese delegation will meet Abdulaziz Al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which is active in Bule Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Hilu will lead the rebel delegation.
This new peace initiative comes after the fall of longtime Sudanese autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, who was toppled from power by the Sudanese military in April.
Prime Minister Hamdok has been tasked with leading Sudan back to civilian rule, but he has said he also wants to end the conflicts with the rebels.
Over the years, the rebels’ conflict with Khartoum have killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee their homes.