The Sacred Heart Church
Religious Freedom and Houses of Worship
His Majesty The King never misses an opportunity to meet with visiting world religious leaders of all Faiths as he passionately upholds and protects the right of every citizen and resident to practice the tenets of their faith.
Right to Religious Freedom
For hundreds of years, the Kingdom of Bahrain has welcomed people of all Faiths to her shores, secure in the knowledge that they are free to worship unhindered. Today, thanks to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, this precious Right to Religious Freedom is guaranteed by law and is enshrined in the Kingdom of Bahrain's Constitution.
Houses of Worship
in the Kingdom of Bahrain
The history of the National Evangelical Church (NEC) can be traced back to the late nineteenth century when Rev. Samuel Zwemer with his small dedicated team of missionaries from the Reformed Church in America (RCA) arrived Bahrain on 7 December 1892 and established the first Protestant Church in the Arabian Gulf. For over a century now, Christians from all over the world gather here together to worship and serve as one body of believers united in faith, hope and love.
In 1971 when the new church building was under construction, HH the late Emir Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa made a personal donation to support the church. The sanctuary was opened on 3 June 1971 and the inauguration was done by HH the late Emir.
In the beginning, there were only two congregations; the English and the Arabic Congregations; but now we have seven member congregations and 25 other groups that worship at NEC and the School Building.
The first Catholic church in Bahrain was built on the land given by the then Emir of Bahrain His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa in 1939, a clear proof of the open-mindedness and religious co-existence that has ever existed in the minds of Bahraini rulers and that great legacy has only flourished with the passage of time.
The Sacred Heart Church, a Roman Catholic parish in Manama, the capital of Bahrain serves around 140,000 Catholics. It is one of the only two Roman Catholic churches in Bahrain, the other being the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Visitation in Awali.
The Sacred Heart Church caters mostly to the large expatriate population coming from India, Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and some Arabian countries largely from Lebanon but also from Syria and Palestine.The church also serves as the centre of Christian community in Bahrain and hosts a number of communal activities including the Family Day festival. Bahrain established its diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1999.
Although there has been a small Anglican presence since the 1890’s, St Christopher’s Church, later to become St Christopher’s Cathedral, the seat of the Anglican Bishop in the Gulf, was built in 1953 on land graciously granted by His Highness Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. It was named after St Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, recognizing the significance of travel in Bahrain’s history and of the members who made up the new Church. At first it was very largely an English community, quite different from today, which reflects the contemporary international expatriate community that is resident in Bahrain.
The Cathedral and its halls are host to more than 40 different Christian churches and groups in any one week. These include some older historic church communities such as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the mar Thoma Church, and the Church of South India and some other newer communities, who express their worship in less formal ways, in different languages and through different cultures.
Bahrain Mar Thoma Church is one of the largest Christian congregations registered with the Ministry of Social Development in Bahrain, for the last 53 years. The church comprises of around 900 families and more than 3000 members. Recently HM King Hamad gifted them a tract of land in Awali for the construction of a church.
The Mar Thoma prayer group formed in year 1962 and this was the dawn of Bahrain Mar Thoma church. In the year 1963, the formation of a new Parish “The Bahrain Mar Thoma Parish” was effected by an official Metropolitan’s letter from The Late Lamented, His Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan. Rev. M. O. Oommen (senior) was our first Vicar from the Kuwait Vicarage.
The Mar Thoma Church which sprouted in Kerala, India is now grown into a church with parishes all around the world. It has currently more than one million members, 795 plus clergy and 1166 plus parishes including congregations divided into 13 dioceses.
The Shri Krishna Hindu Temple in the Kingdom of Bahrain has a long and vibrant history. Established about 200 years ago by the Thattai (Bhatia) Hindu Community, it is known to be the first temple in the Gulf Region. However, the history of Indians in Bahrain can be traced back to the time of the Dilmun civilisation in 3000 BC. The Temple is located in the heart of Manama Souq near Bab Al Bahrain.
The community’s conservative religious values were respected by Bahrain’s rulers and the great grandfather of HM King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, generously granted them permission to establish a temple in the heart of Manama Souq on the property owned by the Thattai community. Recently, the temple has been in the limelight due to its central location within the area marked for “Little India In Bah- rain” (LIIB)
St Christopher’s Cathedral
Mar Thoma Church
Shri Krishna Hindu Temple
St Peter’s Jacobite Syrian
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This old insightful proverb is quite appropriate to describe the evolutionary history of Bahrain’s St Peter’s Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church.
It was in November 1977, when the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church members in Bahrain joined together under the leadership of late Fr P K Babu Paraikulath and started a prayer group at his residence. The spade work of the handful members of that time bore fruit and eventually more members joined the prayer group and it grew exponentially. The prayers of those members for establishing a full-fledged Church materialized soon by the Grace of God Almighty, and in 1978 the prayer group got registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Development. The first Holy Qurbano was celebrated on the day of the feast of St. Gregorios of Parumala on 2nd November 1978.
Due to the influx of the Jacobite Church members in Bahrain the church membership has grown year after year which resulted in relocating the church premises to different locations. Finally, in 1991 the church was relocated to its present premises in Salmaniya.
Church of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo)
With over 50,000 Filipino expatriates living in Manama, Bahrain has become almost the second home for several Filipinos. Because of Bahrain’s religious diversity and openness, people from different walks of life are attracted to live and take refuge in this small island country. The Church of Christ is an International Christian religion that was founded by Bro. Felix Ysagun Manalo from the Far East. It was established in the Philippines and registered on 27th July 1914.
It was on 27th July 1968 when Bro. Erano G. Manalo, the next church leader, officiated the worship service in Honolulu Hawaii which was the very first mission of the church outside the Philippines. The spread of the Church of Christ reached the Middle East, and on the 7th of October 1997, it was officially registered in the Kingdom with its headquarters in Al Arrayed Gardens, Suqaya, Manama, Bahrain.
At present, the Church of Christ has over 1000 active members living across the Kingdom. The members actively participate in various church activities, locally and Internationally.
St Paul's Mar Thoma Parish was established in Bahrain on 26 August 2006. From then onwards worshipers have enjoyed full freedom of worship, by having their own worship centre in the Kingdom with 400 family units in their parish and more than 1000 people get together to worship every Friday.
The Parish has been working here through various organizations. Moreover, they habe a women wing called Susesha Sevika Sanghom; and every Thursday there are meetings in the parish for the empowerment of women and for other humanitarian work. There is also youth wing called Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam.
The Parish holds regular Sunday School meetings children are taught about the Holy Bible. More than 200 children attend the regular Sunday School classes.
St Paul's Mar Thoma Parish
The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church or Indian Orthodox Church is an ancient church, founded by St. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ who reached India to preach the Gospel as early as 52 AD. From Eastern Syrian churches, Indian Church adopted East Syrian languages and liturgies, and gradually church came to be known as Syrian Christians.His Highness late Amir of Bahrain Shaikh Isa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa gifted land for the first Church in 1968. The congregation could build a Church in the name of St. Mary because of the generosity of the Rulers of Bahrain in 1969.
In 1976 His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Khalifa visited our Church and donated a good amount to the Seminary Fund. April 2000 was yet another beautiful moment for the Church as the adjacent land for the church expansion was whole heartedly gifted by His Majesty, the King of Bahrain Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa who followed his father’s kindness and love towards this Church. During the consecration of the present new Church in 2003. The Church was proclaimed as a Cathedral on 10 Oct, 2008. The Church celebrated a yearlong Golden Jubilee from 18 to 26 June, 2009.
The Cathedral has more than 2900 registered families, who are all overwhelmed by the love, religious tolerance and secularism portrayed by the ruling family, Government of Bahrain.
Greek Orthodox Church
Buddhist Community Centre Bahrain has been serving as a meditation and prayer centre for almost 1000 Buddhist community members currently living in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It was the year 2004, when Thongtae Family, a Thai Buddhist family, invited the Buddhist monk from Thailand for the first time to visit Bahrain and teach them how to meditate and lead prayers for their family and friends.
Since then they started gathering every month to practice meditation and pray together. For a few years in the beginning, the monk used to visit Bahrain every other month. In 2007, the number of people who joined monthly prayers rose almost to a hundred persons at a time and the family house became too small to accommodate so big a number of growing worshippers so they decided to rent a house and made it a dedicated place for the Buddhist community in Bahrain where they could practice meditation and pray together anytime they wanted to do so. Morning chanting and meditation session starts from 5 am and continues till 6.30 am every day. While there is always a big gathering for prayers on the first Sunday of every month. However, there are special celebrations and prayers on the Buddhist special occasion - Lord Buddha’s Birthday. The Buddhist community comprises of the Buddhists from Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. Venerable Punyawi Khantiveero Bhikkhu is the current leader of the Buddhist community in Bahrain.
It is generally believed that the first Sikh came to Bahrain in 1929. However, it was the year 1959 when the first Gurdwara was built in Bahrain.
Gurdwara (literally meaning “door to the Guru”) is a place of worship for the followers of Sikhism. Apart from the Hindu temples there are currently three Gurdwaras in Bahrain - in Kanoo, Salmabad and Budaiya.
The Sikh Temples in the Kingdom of Bahrain are established over the last six decades where Sikh community is praying ever since and celebrating their religious festivals. Prayer functions are conducted weekly which are attended by many people from the community.
Since 2004, ISKCON Bahrain is trying to systematically propagate spiritual knowledge among its members and educating in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real peace. Iskcon has adopted various programmes to inculcate spiritual values and also have social interaction to lead healthy life.
Harinam Sankirtan or the congregational chanting of the Holy Name, initiated and propagated by Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu himself, continues to be carried out throughout the world with great pomp and splendour.
Bahrain witnessed the first public Harinam in the region on 29 April as a part of B4all grand event under the formal sanction of HRH Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of Bahrain. 250 members from ISKCON performed the congregational chanting of the HOLY NAME in Shaikh Khalifa Park.
St. Mary’s Indian Orthodox Cathedral
Greek Orthodox Church was established in the Kingdom of Bahrain over several stages; where before the year 1996, Bahrain, like many of the Arab Gulf states welcomed migration of many workers from the Levant region during the phase of the oil discovery, particularly after the year 1975 during the Lebanese civil war and the migration of financial centers and insurance sector to Bahrain. Therefore, many Lebanese have followed the migration of those centers and settled in Bahrain since the mid-seventies of the last century. The migrants to Bahrain varied between Muslims and Christians, and the Orthodox amongst them were not many, however it was necessary that they were cared for spiritually and having their own Church.The Paradigm shift in this parish came during the visit of His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Kiros Kiros Bartholomew at the invitation of the Emir of Bahrain (then) in 2000, where he was accompanied by the sovereign Triangle pities Bishop Constantine, and during the Amir (then) promised granting a land for the Greek Orthodox Church and commissioned Bishop Kostantin parish priest to pursue this matter. By 2005, many visitors and residents visited the Priests of the Church for prayers and Mass on holidays (Christmas and Easter) and then a resident priest was appointed form the parish officially to finalize all the legal and licensing matter, and to ensure its continuity until the present time, where the parish priest Saba Hidossian overlooks the Church’s matters.
Buddhist Community Centre
Sikh Temples in Bahrain
American Mission Hospital
In the closing days of 1892, Samuel Zwemer made his first visit to Bahrain. He was the first representative of the Arabian Mission of the Reformed Church in America to serve on the island. His bag- gage included some medicines. On distributing these, he discovered that the medicines not only brought considerable relief to suffering people but made him many friends as well. In 1893 he returned back to the island and rented a room in the Manama Souq where he operated a small dispensary. It is from these humble roots that American Mission Hospital traces its history.
The first hospital was built in 1902 named Mason Memorial Hospital. The hospital was formally dedicated in January 1903. A second hospital was erected in 1926 with additions being made to it in 1946. Following the second world war, the government increased its role in providing healthcare services. In order to modernize, the old Mason Memorial Hospital was demolished and replaced by new buildings in 1962. The entire complex was renamed “American Mission Hospital”.Today, American Mission Hospital is one of the leading private healthcare providers in the Gulf. Over time the clinic opened a clinic in Saar to pro- vide ambulatory care service to the residents of Budaiya and neighbouring areas.
The first Jewish people arrived mainly from Iraq in the 1880’s, under the reign of Shaikh Isa Bin Ali Al Khalifa, establishing themselves in Bahrain in search of a better quality of life and who continue to contribute to inter-faith understanding from generation to generation.
The Synagogue was established since the 1930’s and was generously funded at the very start, by a Jewish French Pearl-Trader who used to be addressed as “Baig,”
In addition, Bahrain is the only gulf country to have an officially registered Synagogue premises.