Founder of ASSIST Ministries
MANAMA, BAHRAIN (ANS) -- Following the news that the Bahraini government has granted a piece of land to construct the first Catholic Church in the country – the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Manama -- Iranian authorities have been “enraged” and the Iranian Shi’ite media has “vigorously criticized the action.”
Guests a service at the new church
“Iran's intervention in Bahrain's internal affairs, as well as Iran’s support of Bahraini Shi’ite opposition, has made Bahraini authorities to stand against Iran,” said a spokesperson for Mohabat News.
“This time, however, the two countries’ political disputes have gone one step further as authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially its Shi'ite religious websites, expressed concern over the construction of a church in Bahrain and severely criticized Bahraini and Saudi-Arabian officials.”
The Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Manama
This website, which promotes Shi’ite thinking in Iran, claimed, “One crime of Al Khalifa and Al Saud in Bahrain is that they destroyed Shi’ite mosques and Hussainia [a congregation hall for Shi’ite commemoration ceremonies].
“There were 100 Shi’ite mosques and Hussainia. Now, [King] Malik Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, dictator [their phrase] of Bahrain, has allowed the first Christian church to be constructed in Bahrain. In fact, the Vatican is seeking to move its Persian-Gulf region vicariate [a form of territorial jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church] from Kuwait to Manama, the capital of Bahrain.”
In another section of its report, the Shi’ite website wrote, “By giving a construction permit for the first church and catholic vicariate in Bahrain, the King of Bahrain introduced himself as an open-minded man.”
His Majesty the King
Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa
Secondly, receiving visa to Bahrain is easier for Christians. There are some difficulties for Christians to receive Kuwaiti visas and enter that country.
“Another possible reason the Roman Catholic Church has decided to move its vicariate to Bahrain, could be that the Kuwaiti Member of Parliament Osama Al-Munawer announced his plans to submit a bill calling for the removal of all churches in Kuwait,” said the Mohabat News spokesperson. “After facing criticism, he later said that existing churches should remain, but he advocated a ban on the construction of any new non-Islamic places of worship.”
Bishop Camillo Ballin added, “More than two million Catholics from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are residing in different Gulf region countries. Therefore, our vicariate needs to be in a place where it is equally close to these countries.”
He expressed his gratitude to the government of Bahrain because of the land it granted to the Catholic Church to construct its church.
He added, “The government of Bahrain has granted us a large and well-located lot to build our church. Currently there are one and half million Christians residing in Saudi Arabia, 350 Christians in Qatar, 350 thousand in Kuwait and 100 to 140 thousand in Bahrain.”
The news agency added that although the Vatican is concerned about freedom of worship in countries like Saudi Arabia, where Islam is the only recognized religion and Christians mostly hold their services secretly, the Vatican official believes that this is a sign of a more open atmosphere in Bahrain.
“We hope that this example in Bahrain happens in other countries as well,” said the spokesperson.
An attitude the Islamic Republic is not pleased with!
He went on to say, “The Islamic Regime of Iran has expressed its irritation and its affiliated staff journalists have criticized the action of the Bahraini government, while a large number of Arabic countries, though they are the origins of Islam, have tried to show more flexibility and softness in recent years and provide a better situation for religious minorities, instead of religious fanaticism.
“It should be remembered that after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa banning the building of churches of any kind in the country. Also, in some cases, churches in different cities of Iran were ordered to close by the Intelligence authorities.
“It seems that Iranian Christians must cope with the number of churches they already have. Some churches have even experienced difficulty in obtaining a maintenance permit from municipal officials to maintain or restore their old church buildings.”
Note: Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a small island country situated near the western shores of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago of 33 islands, the largest being Bahrain Island, at 55 kilometers (34 miles long by 18 kilometers (11 miles) wide. Wikipedia