By Daniel Bardsley, Gulf News, Feb 23, 2006
Dubai: Christians in Ras Al Khaimah who lost their place of worship to a fire three months ago will this week move into a new church building.
The main building of the St Luke’s Church compound was destroyed in November by a fire blamed on an electrical fault.
Since then churchgoers have had to worship in the compound’s three smaller buildings a chapel and two prayer rooms that escaped the fire.
A new building has now been installed to replace the one gutted by fire and the first services are due to be held in it tomorrow.
The Reverend Gil Linden, Anglican Chaplain to the Northern Emirates, said he was "very pleased indeed" to be able to use the compound fully again.
"Quite a few of the smaller groups who had to use other premises have been communicating with me asking when they can come back.
"They are very thankful that they are able to return and come Sunday nearly all the churches will be back. Worshipping in the compound allows them to do things without hindrance," he said.
Rev Linden said the new prefabricated hall at St Luke’s was a big step up from the one that burned down.
"In terms of prefabricated buildings it’s the Rolls-Royce. It’s been very well made from fire-resistant materials by a company in Dubai," he said.
He added that to ensure speedy evacuation in the event of a fire or other emergency, the new building had a "very wide" entrance door and a fire escape. Additionally, a limit of 170 worshippers at any one time has been placed on the building.
There are an estimated 25,000 Christians in Ras Al Khaimah and prior to the fire about 2,000 of them used to worship at St Luke’s each week.
Following the blaze, Ras Al Khaimah’s Roman Catholics, who previously used St Luke’s, held their first services in their own church, St Anthony of Padua’s.
Rev Linden said he was grateful for the help given to the Christian community by Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, who allowed Christian groups to worship outside the St Luke’s compound after the blaze.
"We would like to express our thanks to the Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler," he said.
The first service in the new building tomorrow will be held by the Mar Thoma Church and Rev Linden is scheduled to perform an Anglican service on Sunday.