First Church in Qatar Celebrates Easter….Muslims “Uneasy”

The Christian community in Qatar has opened the first official church in the Gulf state.

St Mary’s Roman Catholic church was inaugurated in the capital, Doha.

Tens of thousands of Christians, most of them Catholic, live in the emirate, which has a mainly Sunni Muslim population.

Previously, Christians were not permitted to worship openly. Saudi Arabia is now the only country in the region to prohibit church building.

Among diplomats and senior officials attending the opening ceremony was Qatar’s minister of energy and industry, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah.

“The church will send a positive message to the world,” he said.

The church is expected to cater for the country’s large community of foreign workers, mainly from the Philippines and other Asian countries.

Links to video and story:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/check/player/nol/newsid_7300000/newsid_7309100?redirect=7309186.stm&news=1&nbram=1&bbwm=1&nbwm=1&bbram=1&asb=1

http://search.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/search/results.pl?scope=all&edition=i&q=Easter+at+the+first+Qatar+church&go.x=12&go.y=12

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7297808.stm

According to the BBC video report, many Wahhabist extremists in the local population are “uneasy” about Christians being in the ‘holy areas’.

A few conveniently omitted items not covered by the BBC:

DOHA, QATAR — Qatar’s first Christian church has no cross, no bell and no steeple.

And when thousands of worshippers gather at Our Lady of the Rosary to mark Easter, they pray no one will notice.

“The idea is to be discreet because we don’t want to inflame any sensitivities. There isn’t even a signboard outside the church. No signs at all,” said Rev. Tom Veneracion.

For Qatar’s fledgling Roman Catholic community, the sprawling $15-million, dome-shaped building, a 15-minute drive into barren desert is a victory, built with the blessing of the current emir.

……But critics in this devoutly Muslim country call it a desecration, with a militant website last week threatening retaliation against the congregation. One former politician has called for a national referendum to decide its fate.

Lahdan bin Issa al-Muhanada, a popular columnist in Doha’s Al-Arab newspaper, argues: “The cross should not be raised in the sky of Qatar, nor should bells toll in Doha.”

……Sitting in the offices of the modest portable that has doubled as his makeshift chapel for the past six years, Father Veneracion said he is bewildered by the dispute.

“It is confusing to us. We tried to be discreet and I think there’s an atmosphere generally in the Gulf that’s fairly anti-Christian, but that’s mainly to do with what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has nothing to do with us at all,” said the priest, a slight, soft-spoken Filipino who seemed genuinely caught off guard by the controversy.

Link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080321.wqatar21/BNStory/International/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20080321.wqatar21

Yeah, that’s putting it mildly.

A brief synopsis of Wahhabism:

Wahhabism is a fiercely fundamentalist form of orthodox Sunni Islam. After a brief examination of its tenets, it is clear that it is one of division, domination and hate.

Wahhabism originated circa 1703 and is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabists believe that any and all evolution of the Islamic faith after the 3rd century of the Muslim era — after 950 A.D. — was specious and must be expunged. Consequently, Wahhabism is the form of Islam that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahri practice.

Link: http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewCommentary.asp?Page=/Commentary/archive/200711/COM20071102a.html

Kudos to the Qatar government for actually opening up to other religions.

As for the “uneasiness”: Muslims usually incorporate Islam into terrorist doctrine and blow up things and people in the name of “allah”, but a peaceful Christian church service makes them ‘uneasy’?

Go figure.

1 thought on “First Church in Qatar Celebrates Easter….Muslims “Uneasy””

  1. Mac-I was in Qatar at Camp As Saliyah from August 2003 to April 2004. My impression was that the Emir was a pretty forward thinking guy for a Gulf Ruler, it’s a prety nice place to draw combat pay. There is a large Filipino worker population and many of them are Catholic, leting them have a church is a big positive step. Hopefully the Qataris, UAE, Bahrain and (inshallah) Iraq (2004-05) will be a model for the region.

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