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UAE:Multi-faith graveyard, crematorium

Dubai: In a major relief to people of different faiths, including Hindus and Christians, who used to struggle to bury or cremate their dead, the UAE has made operational its first multi-faith crematorium and graveyard spread over 40,000 square metre to serve all non-Muslims. The facility which was built five years ago but was lying unused for lack of an operator has finally found a manager in a Briton who was working in the Abu Dhabi morgue.

The 40,000 square metre cemetery in UAE`s second largest city al Ain will serve people of all non-Muslim faiths residing anywhere in the country, barring any visa restrictions, the management of the facility said. The facility included a church, a waiting room, and municipality services chambers and is equipped to allow the people perform their religious rites in accordance with best environmental practises.

The facility comes as a major relief especially to expatriates, who used to struggle due to lack of a place to bury or cremate their loved ones. For the past five years, the only operational crematorium was at the Dubai Hindu temple, but it was open only to residents in that emirate, said The National newspaper. There was no licensed crematorium in Abu Dhabi, leaving Hindu families to cremate their dead on an unlicensed bonfire near a rubbish tip in Al Ain, it said.

The ceremony to mark the opening of the crematorium was attended by representatives of different faiths and also saw Anglican Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf Right Reverend Michael Lewis bless the chapel at the crematorium, which will be dedicated to St Thomas on behalf of the Anglican community.

"Every effort had been made to create an unshakable air of understanding and dignity among all non-Muslims who would be using this burial ground which is located some 15 km away, north of the city," manager of the crematorium Don Fox said.

Due to the difference in cultures and local procedures, the bereavement process for non-Muslims living in the UAE is very difficult, he added.

"The Municipality was dealing with the unknown… They had the building but didn`t know what to do with it," Fox was quoted as saying. "No one thought it could be a multi faith building, it had to be either Christian or Hindu exclusively. That is why it has taken so long," he said.

Fox who has more than 20 years` experience of working with Abu Dhabi mortuary, said there was a vast amount of paperwork as well as a general lack of knowledge on how to handle this complicated process.

Gopi Pandiath, a spokesman for the Indian Social Centre in Al Ain, said "it is a relief for members of the Indian community, who wish to be cremated here in the UAE". "This has always been a complicated process but we now have access to this new quality service close to home," he told the Gulf news.

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