The beginnings of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Arab Emirates

Engineer Ra’ouf Girguis Moussa arrived to Dubai in mid-1979 looking for a job opportunity. This was ar- ranged by God as he brought with him a cardboard box, weighing 64 kilograms, and which contained:

  • A small Holy Bible – amount: 1
  • Agapy (Prayer Book) – amount: 5
  • Bishara + Cross – amount: 1
  • Handkerchiefs for Communion – amount: 5
  • Khidmat Shamas – amount: 1
  • Kholagi – amount: 3
  • Cup + Dish + Misteer + Kouba – amount: 1
  • Daf + Tiryanto – amount: 1

But as the Bible mentions: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” It was God’s guidance that made him bring items that were essen- tial to any Church service with him so that God may establish an altar in this country.

Engineer Ra’ouf felt the importance of setting up a Church in the Emirates to serve its children here. He registered the Coptic Orthodox sect in the Ministry of Religious Endowments in Dubai in 1979. That was during the time of His Holiness, Arch Bishop Bascillius (may God grant him mercy).

First Mass
The first Mass conducted on UAE soil was at the hands of Anba Athanasius Al Syriani who used to stop by once every 7 weeks from Kuwait to conduct the Mass. The Coptic community at the time comprised less than 50 families in total. This mass was carried out in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai which opened its doors and welcomed us.

First Sunday School
Sunday School in Dubai began by renting classes from Saint Mary’s Catholic School and which required a tre- mendous effort each time in terms of class and lesson preperation. There were hardly more than 5 servants at the time. Engineer Magdy Saa’d was assigned the service’s responsibility (امانة الخدمة) which was then given to Mr. Girguis Iskandar.

Follow-Up Service
The task Engineer Ra’ouf was most concerned with was gathering the Copts, of whom no one had heard, to let them know that there was a Church service in Dubai made for them. He would go around markets and malls asking any families he saw wearing a cross to come to Mass while persuading them of the impor- tance of bringing their children to Sunday School.

As a result, he would often find himself in a number of very embarressing situations but for the sake of the ser- vice, he persevered with love.

First Priest
The first Mass conducted on UAE soil was at the hands of Anba Athanasius Al Syriani who used to stop by once every 7 weeks from Kuwait to conduct the Mass. With time and people’s growing attachment to the Church, the need for a new priest grew. This request was then presented to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III who agreed to send Father Timothaus (مثلث الرحمات) Al Anba Bishoy to serve Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He ar- rived in 1979.

The Masses took place in rented halls in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai. This often meant very hard work for the servants who had to set up the halls to make them look as close to a Church as possible. We cannot forget the spirit of love and kindness with the Anglican Church (Holy Trinity Church) treated us when we asked to rent a Church and some classes for Sunday School from them. With the service’s growth, a need grew for a preist for the Church in Abu Dhabi. Father Arsanious Al Anba Bishoy was sent to support Father Timothaus in Abu Dhabi in 1979.

  • Father Arsanius served in Dubai from 1979 to 1984, when he was called upon to become a Bishop.
  • The service was handed to Father Timothaus Al Anba Bishoy from 1984 to July 2000.
  • Father Isozourous was sent to serve in Dubai in October 2000 to 2005.
  • Father Arsanius then served after him between 2005 and 2010.
  • The first married priest was ordained in June 2012.

Churches that grew from Saint Mark and Anba Bishoy:
After the death of His Holiness Archbishop Bascillius in 1988, His Holiness Anba Abraham became the Archbishop in 1988 and it was a blessed service as the following Churches were built and annointed:

  • Saint Mary and Abou Seifein Church in Sharjah
  • Saint Mary and Saint Marigirgis Church in Fujairah
  • Saint Anthonius Church in Abu Dhabi
  • Saint Mari Mina Church in Jebel Ali
  • Arch Angel Mikhail Church in Ras Al Khaimah

We cannot forget to mention that the altar in Saint Anthonius’ Church in Abu Dhabi was an- nointed by His Holiness Pope Shenouda III’s .hands (مثلث الرحمات)

Bishops that served the altar of Saint Mark and Anba Bishoy’s Church include:

  • His Holiness Anba Abraham (Bishop of Fayum)
  • His Holiness Anba Lokas (Bishop of Abnub and Al Fath) His Holiness Anba Guirgius
  • His Holiness Anba Abakeer

Preists ordained from Saint Mark and Anba Bishoy’s Church:

  • Father Antonious Zakaria (Canada) – previously Dr. Gamal Zakaria
  • Father Rofail Morcos (America) – previously Dr. Nabil Morcos
  • Father Ephraim Saa’d (America) – previously Dr. Magdy Saa’d
  • Father Youhanna Baki (America) – previously Dr. Sherif Baki
  • Father Boula (Australia) – previously Dr. Asim Iskandar
  • Father Youhanna Farid (America) – previously Eng. Rassem
  • Farid Father Morcos Migally (Kuwait) – previously Dr. Sherif Migally
  • Father Bishoy Hosny (Kuwait) – previously Mr. Sami Hosni
  • Father Mina Hanna (Jebel Ali) – previously Dr. Nader Hanna
  • Father Morocs Al Komos Estefanos (Dubai) – previously Mr. Morcos Estenfanos.

 

This post is also available in: Arabic