Saturday, December 5, 2020
The Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue released a report on Saturday entitled “The Situation of Christian Minorities in Qatar”, which aims to identify the conditions of freedom of belief and religious rites in Qatar.
The report drew attention to the fact that the Qatari regime continues to systematically violate human rights, as confirmed by a number of international reports of human rights organizations that have exposed degrading practices and persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians.
The report confirmed that Christians in Qatar have long suffered persecution, marginalization, arrest, imprisonment and murder because of they believe in Christianity, especially converts from a Muslim background.
Christians in Qatar also face many forms of daily discrimination. They are prevented from holding leadership positions, including university presidencies, or holding ministerial portfolios as well as positions that are sensitive to national security, and from the higher levels of the security apparatus to the educational front lines.
According to the report, Christianity is estimated to account for 13.8% of Qatar’s population and most Christians are from Western, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. Although this number is large and reaches 250,000 Christian people, the number of churches in Qatar is not commensurate with this size, and the first church opened in Qatar in 2008. According to the Pew Center for Studies, Qatar has only 6 churches on its territory for all Christian communities.
The report discussed four key topics: the definition of religious minorities and their rights, the most important charters and treaties that protect their rights to conduct and practice rituals, the population distribution in Qatar, the status of the Qatari government’s respect for religious freedom in accordance with Qatari law and constitution and how to enforce the law on Christians in Qatar, the most important problems suffered by Christians in Qatar between 2019 and today of harassment and restricting their freedom to practice worship.
With regard to the country government’s respect for religious freedom in Qatar in accordance with the law, the report stated that although the Qatari Constitution affirmed the right to equality and non-discrimination on a religious basis, the epidemic of religious racism in Qatar exists as a result of several political and social reasons, where discrimination and selection on the basis of religion have extended to many jobs.
The law also places restrictions on the public worship of non-Islamic religions, and residents must obtain an official presence in Qatar, especially non-Muslims by applying for registration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Additionally, it is not permissible to build any church until the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted its approval to places of worship in coordination with the Prince’s Private Office. The Office of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which works in coordination with the Director of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is responsible for managing church affairs.
Although Qatar is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the government submitted documents to the United Nations in 2018 and made an official statement in the treaty accession document that the government would interpret Article 18, paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that no one may be subjected to coercion that would impede their freedom to practice or adopt a religion or belief of their choice on the grounds that it is not contrary to Sharia and that the government reserves the right to implement paragraph 2 in accordance with its understanding of Islamic law.
The Qatari Government also officially stated in its accession document that it would interpret several other provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in line with Sharia, including article 27 on the rights of minorities to embrace and practice their religion.
As for the Qatari government’s practices against Christians, the report stated that recognized churches have inadequate facilities. Qatari citizens or other Muslims who choose to leave Islam face strong family and societal pressure. Additionally, those deemed apostates face severe penalties under Islamic law, including the death penalty.
In this regard, the report included some images of the harassments of the Qatari government’s practices against Christians, including the continued tightening of the country’s Interior Ministry by security personnel on the grounds of Christian places of worship, as well as the return of an Arabic-speaking Anglican survey priest to his homeland for a house church leadership, after his interrogation for three days on charges of leading a place of worship without permission and inviting non-Christians to his church. The authorities allowed him to leave Qatar without trial, which led to some foreign church members stopping to attend religious meetings for fear of deportation. Furthermore, Qatar does not allow the teaching of any religious subjects related to surveyors in schools, and there is no information on religions other than Islam in Qatar’s government curriculum.
New Christian religious groups, particularly small groups, said they still had difficulties obtaining or maintaining registration because of requirements for the group to have more than 1,500 and incompetence and bureaucracy in the State Department.