Qatar’s ‘Church City’ grows as Christianity loses taboo status

It has been more than three years since Qatar opened its first church on the outskirts of town, giving the country’s growing Christian community a place of their own to worship after years in rented spaces.

There are more than 100,000 Christians living in Qatar, according to a 2010 US State Department report.

More, especially from the Philippines and South Asia, have been flocking to Qatar as the country pours billions into infrastructure projects ahead of the 2022 World Cup.

But the community, not wanting to cause waves in this conservative Muslim country, has been historically tight-lipped about how it functions and what its plans are for the future.

Rev. Bill Schwartz, an Anglican priest and an Episcopal Church missionary, granted a rare interview to the Episcopal News Service about the Christian community in Qatar, which published an article last week.

Here are some excerpts:

In a section of Doha, in an expanding development that has come to be known as Church City, thousands of Christian migrant workers worship freely with the blessing of the Qatari authorities.

Christianity in this Islamic state was once an underground religion, but today it thrives, thanks in part to people like the Rev. Bill Schwartz, an Anglican priest and an Episcopal Church missionary….

“We all appreciate the encouragement we receive from the government to establish the presence of the Christian community in this country through the building of churches, even though none of the citizens of Qatar are Christians,” said Schwartz.

“Even so, there are hundreds of thousands of Christians who have found employment and have made a life here, and our churches are overflowing.”

…Even so, there are certain roles that only Schwartz can fulfill. He is one of only two priests currently licensed to perform Christian weddings in Qatar. As such, preparing couples for the lifelong commitment of marriage is an important ministry and Schwartz has performed 104 weddings in just over two-and-a-half years…

Read the full article here.