Bahrain: Move to close seven churches 'without permits'

Manama, 29 Nov. (AKI ) - Seven of the ten Christian churches in the Bahraini capital of Manama may be closed because they have no legal permits.

According to the Arab newspaper, al-Sharg al-Awsat, the authorities are considering the move after protests in recent days by residents in an area of the city where several churches are concentrated.

Residents are objecting to the presence of a dozen churches in the same area, concerned that many of them are found in the same street as little as eight metres from each other.

However the problem with the seven churches is that they were created by Indian immigrants of Christian faith without authorisation by local authorities.

For this reason the Minister for Social Affairs has given the seven churches an ultimatum: obtain the necessary permits or face closure in two weeks.

"This position taken has unleashed the anger of several British Christian organisations that have accused Manama of persecuting Christians," the newspaper said.

The Bahrain authorities have stressed that they want to guarantee religious freedom in their national territory, saying that "the churches enjoy great freedom and our people are open and tolerant towards other cultures and societies".

The authorities said they hope to "take administrative measures" to resolve the conflict soon, avoiding fresh religious conflict.


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