Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thank God and Thank Qatar

As the good cardinal said, let us thank God and Qatar for this great gift.

Thousands of Catholics attend first mass at Qatari church
by Wissam Keyrouz

DOHA, March 15, 2008 (AFP) - Thousands of Christians took part on Saturday in the first mass at Qatar's only church, opened this week despite threats from Islamists.
Vatican envoy Cardinal Ivan Dias presided over the eucharist attended by around 15,000 worshippers at Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic church in Doha, thanking "God and Qatar for this great gift."
The church, which has no bells or crosses on its exterior, opened on Friday ahead of western Christianity's celebration of Easter, which this year falls on March 23. It is the first of five to be constructed in the gas-rich Gulf state.
From early morning, Catholics began arriving at the church, which accommodates around 5,000. Big screens were erected in the grounds to allow the overflow to follow the mass, celebrated during the consecration of the building.
The mass was conducted in English, but prayers were also said in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Tagalog, Spanish and French in honour of the many nationalities that would be worshipping in the church.
Dozens of police were deployed around the church, which cost some 20 million dollars (13 million euros), and female officers searched the handbags of women worshippers.
Western embassies, particularly from the United States and Britain warned nationals living in Qatar to be extra vigilant after an Islamic militants on the Internet made threats linked to the opening of the church.
The US embassy on Thursday released a warning that the new church might be targeted.
"Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include ... the new Christian Church complex in Doha," it said.
Worshippers said they were not concerned by the threats and were delighted to attend the "historic day."
"It is a day without precedent. I am very happy. The threats were made but I didn't pay them much attention. I trust the country's authorities," Filipino Catholic Shato Mawude told AFP.
Fellow Filipino Ariel Almyede added: "We are believers and we are not afraid ... This church is a sign of a possible dialogue between the different faiths."
Qatari Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah added: "The church sends a positive message to the world.
"It is a strong message that will help Islam. At the moment we are enjoying the construction of mosques and Islamic centres in the West, so we must be fair" towards Christians in the region and allow them places of worship.
Qatar is a close ally of Washington and hosts the command headquarters for US forces in the Middle East.
Eventually, the Catholic church will be joined by others to be built by the Anglicans, the Coptic, Greek and Syrian Orthodox and India's Mar Thoma church.
Most Gulf Arab states have long allowed Christians to worship in churches. Saudi Arabia, which adheres to a rigorous doctrine of Islam known as Wahhabism and is home to Islam's holiest sites, bans all non-Muslim religious rituals and materials.
But the papal nuncio in the Gulf, Archbishop Paul-Munjed al-Hashem, said on the sidelines of the mass that talks had begun with Saudi Arabia to convince it to become the final Gulf Arab state to allow the building of churches.
He said "discussions are underway with Saudi Arabia to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom," adding that "we cannot forecast the outcome."
"There are around three or four million Christians in Saudi Arabia, and we hope they will have churches" in which to worship, he said.
He also expressed hope in the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia and Oman, saying he expected an announcement soon on ties with Muscat.


Abu Daoud said...

This is good news indeed. The stricture about no bells and no crosses is classical Islamic shari'a by the way. But still it is better than nothing and God speed as other churches build their buildings in Qatar.

Pray that the ministers at these various churches would have a heart for sharing the Gospel not only with their flock but with the many Muslims there as well.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Meanwhile Christians are suffering terrible persecuion in Pakistan and none of the Islamic nations are speaking out againt it. I received this news:

Zahid Masih was hanged to death on March 12, 2008, around 5:00 am after the punishment of Court Marshal.

SLMP Team left office at about 11:00 pm on March 11, 2008 to receive the body of Zahid Masih on request of his mother Nasreen Bibi. SLMP Team reached Multan city at 5:00 am through local transport. Team straight away went to Zahid’s house and took her mother to the Central Jail Multan.

Before SLMP team reached there some Christians were gathered in front of the the main jail entrance. They were staging a protest against the false death punishment of Zahid Salamat. Meanwhile complainants arrived there by official vehicles (Army Van).

After Zahid was sentenced to death, complainants rapidly moved from there because of the possible attack from the angry Christian protestors. Jail authorities behaved quite badly with the SLMP team and there was a little scuffle between the jail authorities and Sohail Johnson.

Sohail Johnson received the dead body of Zahid Salamat around 7:00 am. After having the body of Zahid, local Christians raged in anger and raised their voices against the decision of Military Court.

Zahid’s mother Nasreen Bibi became unconscious when she saw the dead body of her beloved son. When she got back her wits she stated “We the poor family lost our son, we couldn’t fight against the corrupt system of justice in Pakistan, particularly against the Christians. What is our status being Christians. We are being treated like the slaves of Muslims. Muslims take us as despise as worms. They have the power and status to implicate Christians in fallacious cases, any time. Today I lost my innocent son, but tomorrow the same thing can happen with the son of another Christian mother. My son has hanged as a sacrificial animal and the actual culprits have been saved. I appeal to all the Christian mothers to come forward and raise your voice against the prejudice.”

A neighbor of Zahid Salamat, named Shan Khokhar, stated; “The Government presented an Easter Gift to the Christians of Pakistan, as they hanged guiltless Zahid to death. We condemn this prejudice.”

Pastor Asif Jawaid (An associate Pastor of SLMP for Multan) expressed his feelings; “The Government ruined the sentiments of Christian Community as they hanged Zahid Salamat during the Lent Days. Minorities are undergoing such discrimination from the authorities as well as local Muslims. We pray to God, may God soften the stubborn hearts of the Government authorities and they take pity to the Christians. They went beyond the compass of the cruelty as an innocent Christian has been hanged to death. The judiciary always closes their eyes when a Christian comes to the Court”.

Pastors Naveed Rehmat said, “We refute this decision as it’s taken on the ethnic basis. Authorities did not even think about the Lent days of the Christians. I personally know Zahid Salamat, he was morally a quite nice person. The minorities are being deprived from their rights. We are treated just like animals.”

SLMP took the dead body of Zahid to his home in an ambulance. Sohail Johnson offered a prayer. Associate Pastor of SLMP also prayed for the family of Zahid Salamat.

Just moments before Zahid was hanged to death, he left the message to his fiancée “Please forgive me as I couldn’t get married with you.” He also advised his younger brother Shahid Masih 24years, to look after his mother.

A Jail Official Muhammad Ishtiq stated, “Zahid kept on praying all the night long. His fellow prisoners were weeping and were down hearted”.

Zahid’s death sentence is an open message from the Muslim authorities that nobody can challenge the decision the military court whether it is fair or unfair. SLMP and other Christian organizations tried their best to save the innocent Zahid through agitations and protests with the assistance of the local people of Multan city. But all was useless. The major cause of the one sided decision from the military court was the involvement of a military man who himself was the complainant. The reason why all the endeavors to save Zahid Salamat failed. Unfortunately Zahid was entangled in the net of an official military man.

SLMP condemn the prejudice against the innocent Zahid Salamat. We just can pray for the soul of Zahid, May his soul rest in peace.

Here I would like to say thanks to all of you for prayers you did for SLMP, Zahid and his family. May God give peace to his family and bless you richly. Amen

Yours in Christ

Sohail Johnson

Anyone who would like more information on this and other atrocities against Christian Pakistanis, should contact me.