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."
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.