Christians of the Persian Gulf: One Face of the New Christian Majority Print
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 13 August 2012 08:08

When I was getting my undergraduate degree in Modern Middle Eastern history, Kuwait was widely regarded as an exceptionally tolerant Islamic country.  Not any more.

The Vicariate of Northern Arabia, (Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait) which stunningly, is responsible for two million Catholics, is moving its HQ from Kuwait to Bahrain because of looming threats to religious freedom in Kuwait.

"In February, it was reported that a Kuwaiti parliamentarian was set to submit a draft law banning the construction of churches and non-Islamic places of worship in the Gulf state.

Kuwaiti Member of Parliament Osama Al-Munawer announced on Twitter he plans to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country.

However, he later clarified that existing churches should remain but the construction of new non-Islamic places of worship should be banned.

In March, it was reported that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region”.

Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, made the comment in view of an age-old rule that only Islam can be practiced in the region."

Presumably, the "region" indicated is Saudia Arabia itself, although it is only the area around Mecca and Medina which is totally "off limits" to non-Muslims.

This is a Christian world unknown to most of us. According to the Atlas of Global Christianty, the 2010 populations of Kuwait and Bahrain were 10% and 9% Christian respectively.   Even Saudi Arabia is nearly 5% Christian. The vast majority of Catholics in the Gulf are Asians there for work purposes. Many, especially domestic and construction workers, work under very difficult circumstances. Even in more tolerant Gulf countries, the choices of Christian services on weekends often amounts to 1) Catholic; 2) generic "Protestant" since the historic denominations have little meaning in such a setting and functional ecumenism is a matter of survival. I've had Christian friends who have lived in the Gulf for many years and have heard a lot of stories.

The Christians of the Persian Gulf are one face of the new Christian majority which is neither European or North American.  Pray for them.