Bahrain announces plan for church compound

The National Evangelical Church in Bahrain is a prominent site in the kingdom. [Mohammed al-Jayousi/Al-Shorfa]

The National Evangelical Church in Bahrain is a prominent site in the kingdom. [Mohammed al-Jayousi/Al-Shorfa]

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Bahrain intends to allocate a 9,000 square-metre parcel in the country's southern Awali district for Christians to build a church compound that brings together many different churches.

The Awali area is suited for building the compound because of its available space, the high percentage of Christians in the area and smooth traffic flow along nearby roads, residents said.

Yusuf Haidar, a Christian Bahraini citizen and member of the National Evangelical Church of Bahrain, said that building a church compound in Awali stems from the fact that multiple nationalities live in Bahrain, free from discrimination and free to practice their religion.

"For many years Bahrain has been known for its openness towards all faiths, whether Christian or Jewish, and was one of the first countries to embrace religious tolerance," Haidar said. "[Building the church compound] is not new to Bahrain, where everyone lives without any discrimination or intolerance."

Haidar said the project was in the works for a long time, and now it is almost a reality.

"I have lived with my Muslim brothers for many years in total harmony and mutual compassion," he said. "All the Christians in the kingdom enjoy total freedom to worship without facing any harassment."

History of tolerance

Bahrain built the National Evangelical Church in 1906, the first church for the Christian community in the Arab Gulf region.

Today, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church's Vicariate of the northern Arabian Peninsula is slated to move from Kuwait to Bahrain after the new church compound has been completed, according to Bishop Camillo Ballin, head of the vicariate.

There are more than two million immigrant Roman Catholics in the vicariate, coming from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They are currently distributed in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with the majority living in the latter.

Before the land was allocated for the church compound, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa met with priests from Bahrain's churches, who represent 16 denominations. The king praised the priests' efforts in Bahrain, specifically their call for co-operation to achieve peaceful coexistence among all religions.

Ellen Penaloga, a Christian from the Philippines, said she has lived in Bahrain for over seven years and has never faced any mistreatment or discrimination because of her faith.

She welcomed the step, describing it as "extremely wonderful" and saying the compound will make it easy for Christians in Bahrain to practice their religious rites away from the traffic jams and noise of the capital.

"Awali is a quiet neighbourhood far away from city disturbances," she said. "There are numerous Christians there, particularly workers at the Bahrain Oil Company. The area is very well-suited for a church compound."

Penaloga said the new compound -- with its expanded space and the smooth flow of traffic in southern Bahrain -- will allow Christians to conduct Mass and practice religious rituals on Sundays, instead of spreading these rituals over the entire week as is the current case in Manama's small churches.

Amer Yusuf, a Muslim Bahraini in his 30s, supported the idea of building a compound for churches and criticised recent local objections to its construction.

"Why would there be objections to building a church compound in a place far away from the capital that is inhabited only by foreigners?" he asked.

Yusuf said that distorting the idea of the project, especially on social media sites, as has been happening lately, might harm Bahrain and drive foreign workers away, thus undermining the environment for investment and limiting the flow of foreign capital.

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    يوسف محمد عبدالله

    2012-10-4

    There is no doubt that we need to spread religious tolerance in order to have a better life in the Arab world, so that we can become strong countries that have a strong sovereignty domestically and abroad. This will allow us to practice our religion and increase our strength and stop being weak. This is why one of the values of Islam is the spreading of religious tolerance among the other divine religions, and to work on cooperation among ourselves and respect all the religions, and to each his actions and each will have to answer before Allah and not before us.

  • مرتضى علي

    2012-10-4

    We as Muslims believe that each one of us has their own religion, and we respect the freedom of the other religions or those that adhere to them, but there are countries that do not implement this which makes things worse, whether it is a Muslim, Christian or Jewish country. And this is why it is necessary to raise awareness among all these various religions so as to help spread religious tolerance in the Arab world. However, anyone that attacks the sanctity of any religion should be punished so that they would serve as a lesson for others, but this should be done legally.

  • عبدالله الغرير

    2012-10-3

    Religious tolerance is one of the necessities of life, as humans are the product of their environment, and they are shaped by it, and it provides them with all their basic needs. All religions call for tolerance towards others and to shunning extremism, and they also call to non-aggression, security and peace, and they enjoin people to do this for the good of everyone. Islam recognizes the right for others to exist, and we only have to learn from the Quran that urges us to respect others and leave them to engage in their own worship.

  • عادل راشد

    2012-10-3

    Religious tolerance has become one of the traits that is most lacking in Arab society today, and it is something that the Arab populations do not have, due to the savage and violent conflicts that are going on, and which have many negative repercussions on the lives of the citizens and on the relations between them and other nations, and on the relations between countries. This is why all the socio-political organizations in our Arab world are not calling for spreading religious tolerance and stopping the strife and mockery that are taking place on a continual basis, and for the necessity to have mutual love and compassion and tolerance in our dealings with each other, and for leaving aside the dissensions and religious fanaticism and getting rid of them so that we can live in peace, security, calm and stability, and that we should help each other and our countries to move forward and make progress.

  • مهنا جمال محمد

    2012-9-29

    Tolerance is the best option at every time and at every place. There is no one among us who does not like tolerance and does not wish to see tolerance prevailing and spreading during these times. If we manage to tolerate each other, we will live a decent life, and Islam has taught us how to be tolerant towards each other and how to forgive others. The prophet, peace be upon him, advised us to be tolerant and refrain from doing injustice. He also told us to keep our promises irrespective of circumstances. When Islam emerged, all other religions enjoyed having full rights and nobody denied their followers any of their rights. We Muslims ensured that they lived in dignity and honor, even though Muslims were capable of driving non-Muslims out of their territories. In contrast, Jews were the ones who chased Muslims away at some point in history, and they expelled all of them.

  • عيسى عبد الوهاب

    2012-9-29

    We are sorry for what is happening in the Arab world and the extremism we see from some retarded people of extremism. They do not identify Islam as righteous and the religion of tolerance. It is not a religion of terrorism and the like. Most of us live in reality, where all of the past becomes frightening and the future frightening. For one thing, it creates beliefs and the fact that the worst is that the one who will come will write to become a powerful tool in the process of tolerance and address the relationships, which can be a poem or a letter to a friend or a page or two in a magazine, or even the speech of someone who wants to cause you pain to express their feelings, that it was difficult to express them and being worthy of being honored. The child who is fearful and lives inside of us can cure his fear through love and board during the process of tolerance. For it to happen, you may need to stand your ground. You children and your picture, and your boy, put your photos on the mirror, on your desk or anywhere to remind you of them until you see what inside you and know that what is in your picture is real and that has to be understood by you and the others in the Arab world. Therefore, it has to be the importance of spreading the culture of religious tolerance in the Arab world so they will know in the West that Islam is a religion of tolerance and not as it is exploited by some people for their interests or in order to tarnish its image before the world.

  • كاظم جعفر محمد

    2012-9-29

    The Arab world should consider a culture of tolerance where your thoughts and beliefs determine how to conduct your life, with the goal of tolerance that liberates us from the past and sets us free from rancor and complaints that we carry over to others. Instead of that, we find ourselves in the face of danger. The tolerated allows us to live deeper in the present and helps us. Therefore, we have to see the future with a sense of peace that could extend the present pacificity to the future. The future, for one thing, has to be concerned with the Arab world of culture of tolerance where your thoughts and beliefs determine how you conduct your life. The goal of tolerance frees us from the past and frees us from the grudges and complaints that we carry over to others. However, instead of that, we find ourselves in the face of danger, the tolerated allows us to live more deeply in the present and helps us. Therefore, we have to see the future with a sense of peace that could extend the present pacificity to the future.

  • احمد العرادي

    2012-9-29

    The culture of tolerance for all religions should be deployed around the world and not only to the Muslims. If there are extremist Muslims, you will find the extremism against all the other religions. The government must be concerned about everyone and moderation in religion is required and important. It is also necessary for the matters of religion to go on and all its people as well as its sons of religion, and that everything is governed by moderation because the good things are always the middle ones. It will certainly be mild and will not be biased or supportive to one party. Life in general requires compromise and as religion is one aspect of that life and the way to stability, they have to be moderate. The cleric and Islamic scholars are keen on teaching the youth about the moderate religion and the insertion of the natural ideas into their minds, and not dogmatic and expiatory ideas. It will significantly show them in the future because the young person follows what he has been raised upon. He will also be influenced by what he studied and it will enter into his mind, especially by the Sheikhs and the clergy who are trusted by a large number of Muslim youth. To be moderate in life and religion is important because the young grew up on the idea of intolerance and this is what resulted in the transformation into a criminal threat, and criminal murderer. He only cares about what he learned in his youth.

  • حسن أحمد

    2012-9-27

    With regards to the religious tolerance in the Arab world from time to time, we find that Muslims were targeted by Christians or Christians were targeted by Muslims because of the spark of dissension that we do not know where it came from. Whether they are about Muslims wanting to kill Christians, Christians wanting to kill Muslims, or if it is coming from outside to create dispute among them, and sometimes we see them agreeing with each other.

  • محمد رضا عيسى

    2012-9-27

    Religious tolerance means that everyone who embraces one of the religions accepts the other ones and lives with them as if they are of the same religion without hatred or hostility and not depriving him of his rights that he has. We call for this to prevail in the Arab world.

  • علي السرحان

    2012-9-24

    Islam is a religion of tolerance and because the Arab world is governed by Islamic law, the tolerance is distinguished by its encroachment and character regardless of some extremist groups that are trying to create a spirit of intolerance among the peoples, and exciting an atmosphere of strife and terror among the ranks of the Arab world trying to dismantle and tarnish the image of Islam and Muslims. They also drive a wedge between them and their fellow Christians and other religions.

  • أحمد السعود

    2012-9-24

    National unity is one of the most important foundations on which the state is established. National unity can be achieved through religious forgiveness. The lack of the concept of the religious forgiveness is one of the problems that threaten any society, especially in the Arab World. Some of the greatest dangers that affect the Arab World are shedding the blood of the innocent, accusing others of betrayal and despising them, destroying of the Houses of God (mosques) because of differences in terms of political and religious situations.

  • محمد ناجي

    2012-9-24

    Religious Tolerance: This two-word expression refers to the notions of civilization, appreciation, tolerance towards others and respect. In additions, this expression refers to the respect for others’ feelings, rituals, religion, creed and religious rites. None should insult the other's religion. The Great Quran reads: "(O, disbelievers) thou have a religion and I have mine". This verse calls explicitly for religious tolerance and freedom of belief. Indeed, religion should not become a pretext for battles, disputes and tension. These are the commandments of our Holy Book the Quran and the preaching of Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, who was created to confirm, demonstrate and apply the commandments stipulated in the Holy Quran. Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the epitome of nobility, morals, tolerance and humanitarianism. The Messenger of Allah peace be upon him, represented a divine miracle in applying the concept of tolerance. He showed tolerance towards all human beings regardless of their different creeds, races and affiliations.

  • يحيى حسن

    2012-9-21

    The citizens in the Arab countries believe firmly in the fact that their fellow-citizens of other faiths are part of the same social fabric, and that there is nothing that separates them from each other, and that there is no discrimination among them in terms of rights or responsibilities. Religious tolerance is apparent among the population of the same country in times of crises especially, since the very fact that they stand beside each other is one of the most important factors that demonstrates the existence of religious tolerance among them.

  • احمد زمان

    2012-9-21

    Many western countries think that the citizens in Arab countries do not have religious tolerance among those of various ideological persuasions, and this is an absolutely erroneous assumption, as in most of the Arab countries there are people of different religions that have been living there since a long time ago, and they share common ties, which is more than what others are trying to spread about them.

  • محمود عيسى

    2012-9-20

    The Arab world is characterized by having communities that adhere more to their religion than other communities, so this problem is more obvious in the Arab nation than in the rest of the world. But the religions are not there for making problems but to solve problems. For example, there is no problem establishing the religion and its rituals and giving the other the freedom to do his rituals, without psychological or moral harm to the other.

  • كمال كاظم

    2012-9-20

    The Arab region is one of the multi-religious regions in the world, and this is normal because they witnessed the beginning of the religions. In order that it does not lead to dispersion, in spite of the power of the country, we should establish the concept of unity; in the end, the homeland should have a strong base for every citizen, whatever their religion is. All religions carry the concept of goodness and peace for all.

  • علي جمعة

    2012-9-19

    The Arab world is the cradle of the three divine religions and of the messengers and religions throughout the ages. This has led to the diversity of religions. In fact, people of the different religions have lived in the Arab world in peace and coexistence under the different civilizations because they are linked to the country’s interest, human brotherhood and the social ties.

  • عبد الرزاق سليمان

    2012-9-16

    According to the dictionary entry the term “religious tolerance” refers to the acceptance of others and the easy dealing with them regardless of their religion, sex or color. In modern times, the expression “religious tolerance” refers to more than one notion, including the aforementioned linguistic meaning. It could also refer to such principles as the acceptance and recognition of the existence of divergent views. Those religiously tolerant would accept others as they are and recognize the existence of different cultures and languages as evidenced by Allah Almighty in the Holy Book in the Quran verse which reads: "O people, I created you in the form of nations and tribes so that you make acquaintances. Surely, God is pleased most with the pious believers”. There is another verse which reads: “Humans were a single nation. They split into different nations”. This is sufficient evidence on the recognition of other religions in Islam. In the Arab world, and apart from the extremist and radical few, there was some kind of tolerance between all the people of the homeland. We did not use to discriminate between the citizens on the basis of skin color, race or religion. In this respect, the tolerant Muslims should seek to raise the awareness of the extremists, who do not accept and recognize the principles of religious tolerance, about the importance of coexistence of people from different religions. We should help them to assimilate the notion of religious tolerance. We should educate them about the importance of self-recognition and the discussion with others in order to have access to their identity and history. The true Muslims should be open to other religions, cultures and civilizations. In so doing, the fundamentalists would be able to appreciate the notion of religious tolerance. Thus, they would discard intolerance. In fact, all Heavenly religions preach religious tolerance and non-discrimination among human beings who are all equal before God.

  • محمد صلاح

    2012-9-16

    Perhaps one of the most important good features that characterizes the Arab world including all its peoples and tribes is their hospitality towards other people belonging to the different religions and races. In fact, there is not a difference between Muslims and Christians or whites and blacks. All of them are equal. Indeed, the idea of religious tolerance has largely pervaded Arabs until nothing could sow division among them.