It is a phenomenon not often spoken about; but the Arabic peninsula, homeland of Islam, pullulates with Christians. For most of them the next few days will be a rare and limited moment of visibility, after which they return to living a very discreet life of faith. It is almost a subterranean community in Saudi Arabia, where, according to our interlocutor (a catholic prelate who has been a minister in that region for many years) it easily exceeds one-million people, perhaps even two-million. But those Catholics, perhaps the most imposing example of religious discrimination at par with China, cannot exist as such. The Wahabi regime punishes any display of Christianity within the country’s borders with arrests, expulsions and others penalties.
Our interlocutor prefers to remain anonymous for safety reasons. Even in countries that tolerate some form of freedom of worship, “we depend on the good will of the local authorities.” So, considering that the pastoral care of the not-so-small flock is the first priority and that the sensitiveness of the local rulers is very high (and exploitations are always possible), no names or last names will be used.
During these days, the churches in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar will be full. And in Yemen, the tiny Christian communities connected to the missionaries of Mother Teresa will gather in Sanaa, Aden, Hodeida and Taif.
“In the compounds where the churches are located we are free. We will have the procession on the territory of the parish; and all the ceremonies of the Holy week will be outdoors.” Thousands of people participate. The ceremonies for Good Friday are in quick succession because the churches are full. In the Arab Emirates, the emirs made available the land for the compound free of charge and then the believers constructed the churches with their offerings, “We do not have any other income”.
In the Arabic peninsula, a little less than a hundred clergymen take care of more than three-million Catholics. It is unknown how many Christians there are in total, but they are surely very numerous.
Continue reading the interview with a prelate who speaks about an unknown reality fraught with discrimination and lack of freedom: One million Christians ‘hidden’ in Arabia
Image: Weasel Zippers
News category: Features.