Illegal church allegations to be investigated
Manama, April 1, 2014
Allegations that an illegal church is being built in Bahrain are being investigated by the government.
The Central Municipal Council last Wednesday halted work on the project in Buhair, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Permission for the development was granted by the Central Municipality on the understanding that it would be used as a residential and office building.
However, councillors say they stopped work after being contacted by suspicious neighbours and obtaining artist's impressions that resembled a church interior - suggesting the landlord has violated the terms of his building licence.
"Bahrain is a country of religious tolerance and there are churches, temples and other places of worship being built, but they have to follow requirements and criteria of each area," said Minister of State for Information Affairs and official government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab.
"We have no solid information on the issue, but it is being investigated."
Meanwhile, Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi has said no church could be built in Buhair because it could not cope with large numbers of worshippers.
"We have nothing against people practicing religious rituals, but Buhair is not prepared to accommodate large masses of worshippers that would come to the church," he said.
"I am backing the council in its decision to halt work until changes to designs are carried out to ensure the building does not have a church."
Council services and public utilities committee chairman and area councillor Ahmed Al Ansari said developers have visited him to explain their plans for the building.
"They told me that the building would be offices and residences for priests and the multi-purpose hall would be for worship," he said.
"We have nothing against the priests and they are welcome, but the worship hall - which to us is a church in other words - will have to be changed to offices or residences, or have concrete partitions installed.
"Residents don't want the church and their wishes have to be respected. I have been told that documents guaranteeing there will be no church will be presented and I am waiting." - TradeArabia News Service