First Church Opens In Qatar.

The first Christian church opened in Qatar, Saturday with mass being celebrated in the Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady of the Rosary. The church is built on land donated by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. Construction of buildings for four other groups, Anglican, Coptic and Greek Ortodox communities , as well as an inter-denominational center is also under way. Some 150,000 Christians, mostly expatriates live in Qatar.

Out of respect for local sensitivities the building's exterior bears no Christian symbols such as crosses, steeples or church bells. Local reaction to the church is mixed.Some of the local residents are not comfortable with the idea of an official Christian church.They feel that a church should not be allowed in a Muslim country.Others have taken a broader view. They say that if Muslims can ask for a mosque in England, then why can't Christians ask for a church in Qatar. As long as the religion does not interfere with the state or impose itself on other Muslims they don't see any problem at all. The Christian priests on their part have promised not to proselytize. Since it is illegal in Qatar for Muslims to convert to other religions, any native showing interest in Christianity is expected to be turned away.

Qatar hopes that the church will be seen as a sign of opening up to the West and help it in its bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016.