11/05/2010, 00.00
KUWAIT

Islamic fundamentalists preventing the construction of a church in Kuwait

The government and the emir have approved the project but the Kuwait City Municipal Council refuses to issue building permits or explain its reasons for doing so. About 460,000 Christians share four official churches, two Catholic, one Evangelical and one Anglican. A Coptic church is under construction.

Kuwait City (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A group of Christians has complained that Kuwait City’s Municipal Council is preventing them from getting land to build a church. "The Municipal Council is the big problem preventing us from getting land; not all of the members, just the Islamic fundamentalists," said Archimandrite Boutros Gharib, head of the local Greek Catholic Church.

Recently the municipal council blocked an attempt by the Greek Catholic Church to acquire land in Mahboula, an area in the Ahmadi governorate south of Kuwait City. The request has been pending for several years.

A new church would reduce over-crowdedness in a villa currently used for worshiping, Fr Gharib said.

According to the Greek Catholic clergyman, both the government and the country’s leader, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, have given their approval and blessing to the Church to have its property built. However, the Council has not followed suit. What is more, “The council did not give us any reason,” he added.

“We found the higher levels of government say yes and the lower levels of government say no,” said Rev Andrew Thompson, the Anglican chaplain to Kuwait, who stressed that religious fundamentalists controlled the municipality.

The church said the government had proposed an area of 7,500 m2 with land for buildings and parking.

Greek Catholic Church board member Elian Farah said the government suggested parishioners use the parking facilities of two schools under construction nearby on the weekends and the evenings in addition to their dedicated parking area.

Fr Gharib noted that his church is paying US$ 6,944 a month for a villa that is also shared by two other congregations. If they did not find land soon, the church would have to close, he said. "It's all excuses. It's all lies," he said. "Every time they promise, but all their promises are for nothing."

The one success the Christian community has had in the past 40 years came when Egyptian Copts secured land for their church, but even they have had trouble getting a building permit.

The Greek Catholic community in Kuwait includes about 650 families, and they are not the only Christian group struggling to find space to worship in the country.

Around 460,000 Christians have to share four official churches—two Catholic, an Evangelical and an Anglican—plus the Coptic church under construction.

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