Work has begun on the construction of Qatar’s first purpose-built church in
the desert outside Doha, the country’s capital.
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.
Costing about $15m, the new church is being constructed outside Doha, Qatar
Roman Catholics from all over the Arabian Peninsula – many of them migrant
workers – are helping to pay for the $15m building, which is scheduled to
open at the end of the year.
Overseeing the church 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 practiced behind
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."
"Of course it’s not easy to be a bishop here [in the Gulf]," he said. "But
at least regarding the church life it is full of vitality."
Bishop Paul Hinder oversees churches in Qatar,UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and
even in Saudi ArabiaHinder said allowing Christians to worship freely could
only bring benefits to the countries in which they are working.
"The more they [people] are satisfied spiritually the more they will
continue to help develop the country, it’s obvious," he said.
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.
Certainly, turn-out at church services all over the Arabian peninsular is
Numbers in the congregations regularly beat those in congregations in Europe
and even in the United States.
The majority of the two million expatriate Christians who attend these
services are Filipinos, Lebanese and Indians who have come to the Middle
East for work.
"We have to accept that we are expatriates in every sense of the word. We
are a pure pilgrimage church," Hinder told Al Jazeera.
"The challenge is especially that we are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual,
multi-racial church composed of faithful from more or less all over the