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Sunday Worship Comes to the Gulf

Image: Walter Bibikow / Getty Images
Etihad Towers and Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants to create a more friendly financial climate. Christians, say local evangelical leaders, are among the unintended beneficiaries.

“The business of Dubai is business, even though they are committed Muslims,” said Jim Burgess, evangelical representative to the Gulf Churches Fellowship, referencing the UAE’s economic hub. “But worshiping on Sunday—our traditional day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus—will be a great blessing.”

Seeking better alignment with international markets, the Emirates is adopting a Monday to Friday workweek. The weekend had previously begun with Friday, in deference to Muslim communal prayers. Christians aligned their corporate worship accordingly.

“It is a bit strange to worship on a Friday, but you get used to it,” said Hrayr Jebejian, general secretary of the Bible Society of the Gulf, who lives in Kuwait. “The [UAE’s] reasons are purely financial, but for Christians it will be like going back to normal.”

Of the UAE’s 10 million people, 88 percent are migrant workers. The Pew Research Center estimates 13 percent are Christians, coming largely from India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, in addition to Western expats.

It is necessary to keep and attract good talent. Alongside officially secular Lebanon and Turkey, the UAE is now the third Middle Eastern nation to keep the Western calendar. But it comes with a tweak. All public sector employees will be dismissed at…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on December 14, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.

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