First Gov't-Approved Christian Church to Be Built In Qatar

The first church of any kind to be constructed in the Muslim state of Qatar in more than 1,400 years will begin construction early next year, announced officials in early November.

The Anglican Church, after talking to the Qatari government for five years, has finally received approval to build the $7-million Church of the Epiphany. Construction of the church will begin early 2006 on the land donated by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamd bin Khalifa al-Thani.

“Qatar is an extremely important country in the Middle East and building this center sends an unmistakable message about dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims,” said Clive Handford, the Nicosia-based Anglican bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, in the Anglican Journal.

The Persian Gulf state, although small with a population under one million, has transformed itself from a poor British territory to a country having one of the highest per capita incomes in the world due to its high oil and natural gas revenues.

The Church of the Epiphany will not have a cross on the outside of the building but the walkways and grounds of the church will have crosses and flower motifs resembling those of early church according to the Pakistan Christian Post.

“We are there as guests in a Muslim country and we wish to be sensitive to our hosts," said Handford according to Mission Network News (MNN). “But once you're inside the gates it will be quite obvious that you are in a Christian center.”

Qatar has about 70,000 Christians, with about 7,000-10,000 members of the Anglican Church according to estimates from the World Christian Database. For decades, the Anglican Church used English schools in the capital Doha as places of worship.

According to Mission Network News, Gulf states such as Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have allowed churches to be built.