» 08/24/2010, 00.00
Persian Gulf, look East to where the church is growing
While the Middle East witnesses the exodus of Christians on the Arabian Peninsula, the number of followers of Jesus never stops growing. Mondo e Missione, the PIME monthly magazine on World Mission, devotes a lengthy report to this fragile yet vibrant Church.
Milan (AsiaNews) - "Our faith is stronger here than at home." The words of Nila Bandigan Sanchez, a Filipino immigrant in Abu Dhabi, effectively summarize the spirit of a Church that is as surprising many, the church in the Persian Gulf. It is an "unexpected" but highly relevant Church; while the Middle East is witnessing a more or less dramatic exodus of Christians, the number of followers of Jesus is continually growing in these lands. The Vicariate of Arabia, with its three million square kilometres is the largest in the world (it comprises the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen) and is home to millions Christians : according to official figures they represent, across the different countries, between seven and ten percent of the population but simple empirical calculations suggest that they exceed 30 percent of population in the UAE.
In fact the latest edition of Mondo e Missione, PIME monthly magazine , has dedicated a special report to the "Church of the Gulf", due out on the eve of the Synod for the Middle East convened by Pope Benedict XVI for this October. A report, authored by Chiara Zappa, drawing her experiences in the Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait, in search of the stories and voices of the many Christians from different countries and diverse cultures that inhabit the land of the sheikhs. Christians such as Danny Jose, 26, a native of Kerala and charismatic young leader of a group in Abu Dhabi and guest, so to speak, of one of the notorious labour camps where the workers who build the skyscrapers of the Emirates are living without rights. But just like Sister Magdalene, in her clinic in Dubai, he is a witness to the suffering and expectations that permeate the great "city of illusions."
Members of a precarious Church on "probation" - practice and religious symbols are limited to the narrow confines of the parishes - but full of energy, says vicar of Arabia, the Swiss Capuchin Paul Hinder: 'Our communities are lively and enthusiastic despite the obstacles and difficulties, we are a challenge to the West". For Mgr. Camillo Ballin, an Italian Comboni, vicar of Kuwait, "the fact that millions of Christians live in a land sacred to Islam is in itself an important testimony: we are called to be leaven in the bread".
Indeed part of the Mondo e Missione special report focuses on attempts to establish an encounter and dialogue between Christians and Muslims, including the thoughts of the grand mufti of Dubai and the spokesman for Dicid, the International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue of Doha, the most important reality of this kind in the region.
Fr David’s mission among Muslims
Fr. David Carraro speaks of the first years of his priesthood in Touggourt among Algerian Tuareg and his study of Arabic in the Egypt of the Jasmine Revolution. Bearing witness to Christ with his life and faith in countries where it is forbidden to proselytize. Priest: "The only service that we ask the Algerian Muslim farmers is for prayer, not money or food." Dialogue with Islam is only possible within a human relationship that enriches lives.
Bengal the "white man's grave": the fruits of mission
Evangelization in East Bengal by the missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions ongoing for more than 155 years. The Church of Bangladesh is a vibrant one in constant contact with tribal and Muslims, in the midst of poverty and overpopulation. The latest work of Fr Piero Gheddo.
Fr. Paul Ballan, the dialogue of charity with Muslims
The PIME missionary arrived in Dhaka in 2005. In his parish they operate a shelter for the poor and an elementary school. They are places of encounter and dialogue with the Muslim majority population, but also "a school of prayer and love for the parishioners."
Tensions high in Boldipukur: Mission threatened
Unknown assailants warn the parish to withdraw the complaint filed after the attack on the church and the convent. The violence was not over money or an attack "in hatred of the faith." "It is likely - say local sources - that it was an attempt to intimidate nuns and priests and convince them to close a legal dispute over land ownership"
Christians launch petition for use of the word "Allah"
Support is expected from Muslims, in addition to Jews and Christians around the world. The petition can also be signed via the internet. The diocese of Kuala Lumpur continues its legal battle against the government, to use the word "Allah" in Catholic publications.
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