Manama churches, clubs face new clamp
Manama, January 16, 2014
Christian churches and expatriate clubs in an area of Manama could face closure following a string of complaints from neighbours.
The Manama Municipal Council yesterday ordered government bodies concerned to enforce the law after issuing numerous warnings, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It follows clashes caused by worshippers, club members and other visitors parking in front of neighbours' homes - blocking entrances and exits.
Residents claim they often wake up to find their vehicle damaged or scratched due to the large amount of traffic generated.
There are around 30 churches, licensed and unlicensed, clustered in the Capital Governorate's constituency seven - which includes Segaiya, Salmaniya and Mahooz - besides two expatriate social clubs.
Churches are licensed by the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry, while clubs are authorised by the Social Development Ministry.
Most of the churches are officially registered as residential villas, offices or warehouses, according to council documents.
Seven churches are located on just a 200-metre strip in a residential area of Segaiya.
Manama Municipality director-general Shaikh Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told councillors at their meeting yesterday that he could not act unless complaints were lodged by the two ministries concerned.
Council financial, administrative and legislative committee chairman and area councillor Fadhel Al Qaidoom said the council had nothing against non-Muslims practising their faith, but they should not disturb their neighbours or cause traffic congestion.
"We have nothing against licensed churches and we encourage their existence, but when religious practices cause problems then a clampdown is necessary," he said.
"Residents, locals and expatriates reached a boiling point because worshippers were parking their vehicles in front of their garages.
"It is difficult to know whose car it is and even if traffic policemen are called, they normally take two hours to be there.
"By that time residents get fed up and tired - and the religious ceremony, party or gathering is over."
He said the situation was made worse by visitors' refusal to listen to complaints.
"Some visitors refuse to move their car, saying they are parking in a public place and no-one has the right to tell them to move," said Al Qaidoom.
His predecessor and former MP Abdulmajeed Al Sebea'a first raised the complaint in 2007 and vowed to close churches that violate the law.
A deal was later struck between the churches and the council, but Al Qaidoom said that after Mr Al Sebea'a quit parliament in 2011 the problems returned.
"The moment he left (parliament), they (churches) turned their backs on him, thinking that I am lenient - the country saw two bad years, but that didn't mean the issue was not on my agenda," he said.
"It was made worse with recent clashes between residents and worshippers and real action had to be taken through the council."
Al Qaidoom said churches were only half of the problem, with two expatriate clubs making matters worse.
"If 30 churches are causing 50pc of the problems, then two social expatriate clubs within an area of 200 metres are causing the other half," he said.
"The Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam (BKS) and Kerala Catholic Association are a big source of problems - most notably the samajam, whose members and visitors are of huge numbers, but it has only around 100 car parking spaces.
"I spoke with the BKS, they promised and promised, but nothing has been done.
"They have left me with no choice but to seek having them closed in line with the decision taken in 2007, because residents don't want them in the neighbourhood."
Neither club could be reached for comment yesterday. - TradeArabia News Service