Tuesday, March 27, 2007

[courageous faith] church rises in arabia

Work has begun on the construction of Qatar's first purpose-built church in the desert outside Doha. Although the country's native inhabitants are entirely Muslim - and are prohibited by law from converting to another faith - the new Catholic church will cater to the large number of Christian migrants who have come to the Arabia Gulf state in search of work.

It is costing about $15m and overseeing the work is Paul Hinder, the Catholic Church's Bishop of Arabia. A Christian in the heart of the Muslim world, his diocese is the entire Arabian peninsular, encompassing six countries.

He oversees churches in Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and even in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam where Christianity is practised behind closed doors. Speaking about the Christian communities in Saudi Arabia, he said: "It's not an open church. Privately the Christians may gather in their houses in a very discreet manner."

Hinder told Al Jazeera that often people are more active Christians during their one or two years labouring in the Arabian peninsular than they are when they are back home. The majority of the two million expatriate Christians who attend these services are Filipinos, Lebanese and Indians who have come to the Gulf for work.

Jesus would surely approve of the church but would he approve of the Church and its $15m price tag? Still, if the congregation is paying out of their own pockets, why not? It would be more than interesting to have a chat with Paul Hinder about things. Has he been on national television in Britain or America, does anyone know?


Anonymous said...

I'm currently here in Qatar and working with the Bishop as a volunteer. (note: I AM NOT an official spokesperson, but rather an involved parishioner) The current Church is a little more than a donated compound...not much bigger than an Elementary School gym. All Masses are standing room only and the new church will hopefully serve the pastoral needs of the broader Catholic community. The $15 mil is a reflection of the +30% per year inflation going on here in Qatar. There are many people (not only here, but around the region) who are interested in supporting this and other initiatives. Happy to answer more questions.


james higham said...

This is more than interesting. I hope you come back to this post because I'd love to know - is it safe for you there? Is there subtle pressure on you? Would a synagogue be able to be built there as well?