By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent
Catholic church in Kuwait
The State of Kuwait found itself an unlikely bedfellow on a list of countries that supposedly persecute Christians residing within their borders. A US based non-profit ministry known as â€œOpen Doorsâ€ recently released its annual list of countries that purportedly abuse Christians. Itâ€™s not surprising, given the often distorted view of Muslims portrayed in popular Western media outlets, that eight of the top ten countries on the list are Islamic nations. Iran is listed at number two and Afghanistan is ranked at number three. Further down the list are Qatar, which is ranked at number twenty-six, and Kuwait at number twenty-eight.
According to the mission statement on the Open Doors website, the purpose of the ministry is to work, â€œâ€¦in the worldâ€™s most oppressive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christâ€™s light in these dark places.â€ What is most shocking about Kuwait being included on this list is that Christians in the tiny Gulf state have enjoyed freedom of religion for decades. While Kuwait is primarily a Muslim country its populous is a melting pot of several world religions including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. There are several churches in Kuwait for Christians of various affiliations to worship in. Christian symbols are evident in many places in Kuwait. The â€œcrossâ€ can be found dangling from car rearview mirrors and off necklaces worn by the devout. The Kuwaiti government also allows businesses to sell Christmas trees, ornaments and a wide array of other goods required for Christian holiday celebrations.
The Open Doors website defines a Christian who is persecuted for their beliefs as, â€œâ€¦a believer that is denied the protection of religious freedom, prevented from converting to Christianity because of legal or social threats, physically attacked or killed because of their faith, forced to leave their job or home because of the threat of violence, or imprisoned and interrogated for refusing to deny their faith.â€ Kuwait is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East when it comes to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Local newspapers and magazines often feature an array of articles and literary works that represent religions other than Islam. The Bible and other Christian publications are sold openly in the Kuwaiti marketplace. Religious profiling or crimes against non-Muslims are unheard of in Kuwait.
It remains unclear why Kuwait was included on the Open Doors World Watch list as a perpetrator of persecuting Christians. However, online social-networks have been alight with Kuwaitis expressing shock, awe and theories ever since the list was revealed. On just one out of countless websites based in Kuwait, a commenter speculates, â€œI think it is because expatriate workers, who make up the majority of Kuwaitâ€™s population, are racially profiled. They also happen to be predominantly Christian people from the sub-continent and Philippines. Itâ€™s a coincidence.â€ The fallacy of Kuwaitâ€™s alleged persecution of Christians is unfortunately something that is propagated on scores of Christian blogs and websites. A quick search of google returns dozens and dozens of Christian websites that are presenting gross misinformation about Kuwait.
One such blog, which was created solely for the purpose of listing instances of Christian persecution in nations around the world, erroneously cites several false claims about Kuwait. The blog lists Kuwait as a â€œrestricted nationâ€ and states, as facts, that only Muslims can become citizens and only Muslims receive â€œfinancial incentivesâ€ due to their faith. The reality is that Kuwait provides exclusive rights for Kuwaitis, regardless of religion, based on citizenship. Kuwaitis of all religions receive countless perks such as free health care, free schooling and financial payouts from the surplus oil wealth. Quite notably, non-Kuwaiti Muslims are barred from buying property, attaining citizenship and receiving government handouts in Kuwait.
Kuwait is one of the most religiously harmonious countries in the Middle East. It stands tall as a beacon of light that other countries, which do engage in religious persecution, can strive to follow. In Kuwait, thereâ€™s a chance you might find a church situated right next to your mosque. However, what you are guaranteed to discover, is a populous that lives in peace regardless of religious beliefs.