ICC Note: While traditional Christian communities in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt are fighting for their survival, there are places in the Middle East where Christians are meeting openly. In the United Arab Emirates there are a few churches that have a growing membership. There are very few locals who attend, rather the congregations are made up largely of foreign workers who have been drawn by the booming economies. While they are able to gather freely, they still face cultural and religious restrictions in many places.
09/15/2015 UAE (Atlanta Daily World) Christianity is not dead in the middle east. One place that is showing this is Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Pew Research Center numbers Christians in the Arabian Peninsula at 2.3 million—more Christians than nearly 100 countries can claim. The Gulf Christian Fellowship, an umbrella group, estimates 3.5 million. Foreigners now make up more than 70 percent of the more than 4 million inhabitants, coming from other Arab countries, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines. More than half of these foreign workers are Christians. Adding up the figures, Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates. Around a million of them are Catholic. And it’s not only in the UAE – in Saudi Arabia, too, it is estimated that there are already about a million Catholics from the Philippines.
One of the things proving that ministry is growing is the creation of a new church. Located in Mussafah, a satellite town of Abu Dhabi, St. Paul parish overflowed with 5,000 Christian worshippers gathering for the Thanksgiving Mass, far more than its 1,200-capacity. It is set to cater to the 60,000 to 70,000 Christians working and living in the surrounding area, many of whom are migrant workers from Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Some local Arabs have also joined in.