Every country could improve its human rights record, right? Even yours and mine. William Dalyrymple, in his book, From the Holy Mountain, published in 1998, noted that Christians living in Syria enjoyed more protection and greater freedom than Christians in any other country in the Middle East. Well, that was then. What about now?
If the Qatari and Saudi backed Sunni Salafist insurgents do indeed overthrow the government of President Bishar Assad, what will be the fate of Christians and other minorities? One does not have to look too far across the Gulf for an answer.
While Shia Iran has been quietly handing back church property seized during the Islamic Revolution, regularly hosts interfaith conferences to improve Christian-Muslim relations and has even given permission for the importation of Farsi Bibles, a very different religious agenda is being implemented in Bahrain.
Reem Khalifa of the Associated Press, has written a disturbing report entitled Plan for Catholic Church Makes Waves in Bahrain, re-posted by the Centre of Christian-Muslim Engagement (CCME).
The building of the largest Roman Catholic church in the Gulf was supposed to be a chance for the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain to showcase its traditions of religious tolerance in a conservative Muslim region where churches largely operate under heavy limitations.
Instead, the planned church — intended to be the main center for Catholics in the region — has turned into another point of tension in a country already being pulled apart by sectarian battles between its Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities.
Hardline Sunni clerics have strongly opposed the construction of the church complex, in a rare open challenge of the country’s Sunni king. More than 70 clerics signed a petition last week saying it was forbidden to build churches in the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.
One prominent cleric, Sheik Adel Hassan al-Hamad, proclaimed in a sermon during Friday prayers last month, that there was no justification for building further churches in Bahrain, adding, “anyone who believes that a church is a true place of worship is someone who has broken in their faith in God.”
Read the full story on ABC News