Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christians are coming back to Arabia

So says Chisea, a website providing "news, analysis, and documents on the Catholic Church." According to Chisea,
On May 31, the Holy See established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors with the United Arab Emirates. Few noted the fact that the United Arab Emirates has the greatest Christian presence of any Islamic country.

And it is a new and growing presence. Exactly the opposite of what is happening in other regions in the Middle East like Iraq, Lebanon, the Holy Land, where Christian communities of very ancient origin actually face extinction.

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates ... . Almost all of the citizens belong to the official religion, Islam.

But there are many more immigrants than citizens. Foreigners now make up more than 70 percent of the more than 4 million inhabitants, coming from other Arab countries, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines.

More than half of these foreign workers are Christians. Adding up the figures, Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates. Around a million of them are Catholic. And it's not only in the UAE – in Saudi Arabia, too, it is estimated that there are already about a million Catholics from the Philippines.
The article goes on to describe the worship especially amongst Filipino maids. One example is those who have fled their employers and are sheltered by the Filipino embassy. Another example is of maids who arrange their own services together because their jobs do not allow them to get a church.

Unlike Saudi Arabia, the UAE is good in giving freedom to foreigners to celebrate their religion. But Chisea points to issues that should be addressed. The first is that maids working for families have very little free time, and little freedom of movement both of which limit their freedom of worship - in particular, preventing them from obtaining the sacrament of communion.

The second is that workers in low-wage jobs are virtually indentured servants. This leaves them vulnerable to the capriciousness of their employer. As I have argued before, there would be far fewer stories of employer abuse in the UAE if workers had the freedom to change jobs. As it is, the bad behavior of a few spoils the reputation of the country and makes it more expensive for all employers to hire workers from abroad.

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Blogger Ahmed said...

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7:02 PM  

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