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11.11.2005
  Qatar opens doors to first church in 14 centuries

"Missionaries brought Christianity to the Gulf in the second half of the 5th century but it disappeared from most Gulf Arab states within a few centuries of the arrival of Islam."

How exactly did it disappear?

"Bishop Handford accepts that some Qataris might not be happy. 'You'd get the same in the conservative Christian world where mosques are built,' Handford says."

Would you really? Like in Rome, I suppose? Oops -- no, there's a mosque there. Well, there must not be any in the Bible Belt. What's that? There are mosques in all the major cities of the American South? What are you, some kind of Islamophobe?

Islamic tolerance alert from The Christian Science Monitor:

NICOSIA, CYPRUS - The first Christian church in the conservative Muslim state of Qatar since the arrival of Islam in the 7th century is to be built on land donated by the reform-minded Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

The $7 million development of the Church of the Epiphany, which will not have a spire or freestanding cross, will begin early next year.

Christians are forbidden by the dhimmi laws to display crosses. But no one pays attention to the dhimmi laws today, right? Or at least that's what the Islamic apologists -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- tell us.

Clive Handford, the Nicosia-based Anglican Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, says: "We are there as guests in a Muslim country and we wish to be sensitive to our hosts ... but once you're inside the gates it will be quite obvious that you are in a Christian center."

The walkways and grounds of the church, in Qatar's capital, Doha, will have crosses and flower motifs resembling those used in early Christian churches. "We hope that the center can be a base for ongoing Muslim-Christian dialogue," Bishop Handford told The Monitor....

Missionaries brought Christianity to the Gulf in the second half of the 5th century but it disappeared from most Gulf Arab states within a few centuries of the arrival of Islam. Over the past 100 years, particularly since the discovery of oil, Christian expatriates have migrated to the region which is currently enjoying an economic boom that is attracting more foreign workers.

Bishop Handford accepts that some Qataris might not be happy. "You'd get the same in the conservative Christian world where mosques are built," Handford says. "We haven't experienced any problems or difficulties with local people," he adds.

In particular, the emir, who came to power in 1995, has been very supportive. "Were it not for his agreement, and approval, and generosity, we wouldn't be having a church," says Bishop Handford.

 
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