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Religious Coexistence in Bahrain

By VADM Mark I. Fox

Every time I visit Manama, I am impressed by the remarkable environment of religious tolerance and wide diversity of various faith communities in Bahrain.

VADM Mark I. Fox

Bahrain’s centuries-old record of multi-faith pluralism is unique in the region. Despite a relatively small national population of 1.5 million people, Bahrain is home to the only Jewish synagogue on the Arabian Peninsula; Bahrain also has a 200-year old Hindu temple; a Sikh temple; nearly 800 Shia mosques; over 600 Shia matams; 500 Sunni mosques; and well over a dozen Christian churches representing Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox, Anglican and Evangelical faith groups. There is no other place in the region with such a vibrant multi-faith environment.

American missionaries from the Dutch Reformed Church in New Jersey first came to Bahrain in December 1892 and eventually established in 1903 what is known today as The American Mission Hospital, the first and largest not-for-profit healthcare organization in the region. (As an interesting bit of trivia, American Mission Hospital’s address is P.O. Box 1 – the first mailing address in Bahrain).

During our time in Bahrain, my wife and I worshiped at St Christopher’s Cathedral, an Anglican Church that represented the amazing diversity of Bahrain’s population. We still count members of that church among our closest friends and look back at our time in Bahrain with the fondest memories and deepest satisfaction.

Bahrain is the only GCC country to observe a public holiday for Ashura, and is the only GCC country to allow outdoor Ashura processions.

As another example of Bahrain’s commitment to religious diversity, the Church of Bahrain broke ground in 2018 on The Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia on land donated by His Majesty the King. Construction on the cathedral (located in Awali, approximately 20 km south of Manama) is ongoing.

In summary, Bahrain is a global leader in for inter- and intra- religious diversity and unity.

And finally, we are in the midst of the of Ramadan; I wish you all the blessings of, joy and peace of the holy month. Ramadan Mubarak!

Mark Irby “MRT” Fox is a retired United States Navy Vice Admiral who last served as the Deputy Commander of United States Central Command.