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Christianity returning to the Gulf

ICC Note

“After over 20 years of making formal requests to the authorities, the government has finally granted the Christians land to build their own places of worship. The Catholic community were given the largest piece of land, because our presence here goes back down the centuries and also because our community is the largest, now numbering over 100,000 faithful,”

By Jenny Coutinho,

05 February 2008 Qatar , United Arab Emirates (merinews) – Christianity is returning to the Persian Gulf, thanks to the liberal approach of the current rulers in the Muslim states of Qatar and United Arab Emirates . While war is taking its toll in the Holy Land with the number of Christians dwindling in Iraq and Lebanon , Christianity is returning to the Middle East centering around the large expatriate population, who are working in the oil-rich gulf countries.

The majority Muslim country of Qatar , which has a head count of 100,000 Christians, will inaugurate its Our Lady of Rosary church, on March 15, this year. The church constructed at a cost of US$15 million has been funded by Catholics throughout the Arabian Peninsula — and was earlier scheduled to open at the beginning of this year but has been pushed back by one more month.

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For the last fourteen centuries the Christians in this part of the land had been without a place of worship. The Christian communities, mostly from India , Philippines and Lebanon have been conducting their activities in schools. The oil rich countries, economic boom have attracted the Christian expatriates to migrate to the region.

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The church will not have a spire or freestanding cross, like most of the churches here in the Arabian Gulf . Christians are forbidden by the Dhimmi laws to display crosses. The government permits freedom of worship to the Christian but prohibits conversions.

“After over 20 years of making formal requests to the authorities, the government has finally granted the Christians land to build their own places of worship. The Catholic community were given the largest piece of land, because our presence here goes back down the centuries and also because our community is the largest, now numbering over 100,000 faithful,” Father Tom Veneration, head of the Doha parish centre who has been working in Doha for the past three years and is originally from Manila has been quoted in Asia News as saying.

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And in neighboring United Arab Emirates which consists of seven emirates signs of religious tolerance are showing with the Holy See establishing diplomatic relations and exchanging ambassadors with the United Arab Emirates .

This is a country where there are many more immigrants than citizens. Foreigners now make up more than 70 percent of the more than four million inhabitants, coming from other Arab countries, Pakistan , India , Bangladesh , Sri Lanka and the Philippines . Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population.

In Saudi Arabia , where the holy city of Mecca is located, an estimated million expatiates Catholics can be found.

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