Qatar may be best known as the home of Al-Jazeera television, but an Anglican congregation now plans to build the country's first Christian church since Islam's arrival in the 7th century - a step that risks angering local Muslims.
Clive Handford, the Nicosia-based Anglican bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, says construction will start in the Qatari capital of Doha in early 2006 on the 26 million-Qatar riyal ($7 million) Church of the Epiphany, along with a conference center and meeting rooms.
Plans for the Anglican church and three other Christian houses of worship have not been well publicized in Muslim-dominated Qatar, which also is the forward headquarters of the US military's Central Command.
While some see the construction as a sign of increasing religious diversity throughout the world, Qatar's close-knit Muslim community may become angered if public approval is not sought, said Najeeb al-Nauimi, a prominent lawyer in Doha.
Christianity disappeared in most Gulf Arab states within a few centuries after Islam's arrival in the 7th century. But Christian expatriates have migrated to the region over the last hundred years, especially after the discovery of oil.
Qatar now counts some 70,000 Christians, including some 7,000 Anglicans and 50,000 Roman Catholics - largely from the Philippines, according to the World Christian Database. Qatar's Anglican community is its oldest, dating to 1916, the database says.
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