Seven Indian churches face eviction in Bahrain

Manama, Bahrain - Bahrain gave seven churches serving the country's Indian community two weeks to acquire licences allowing them to operate legally or they might face eviction, a newspaper said on Thursday. The row over the churches erupted when local residents living in the neighbourhood of Sebaea in the capital Manama complained about parking problems caused by 10 churches existing on an 8-metre-wide road, according to the daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.

It transpired that only three churches had licences from the municipal authorities, which prompted the government to give the unlicensed churches a deadline for registration or they would face eviction.

In response to protests by various Christian groups in India and the West, the tiny Gulf country stressed that churches enjoyed unrestricted freedom of religion, the paper said.

"The Bahraini people are cultured, aware and open towards different human civilizations. They are distinguished by their acceptance of others and have no hatred or animosity towards anyone," Bahraini sources told al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Bahrain urged all religious institutions operating in the country to abide by the church registration rules.

Muslim Arabs constitute the majority of the kingdom's population but with the influx of foreign workers, mainly from South-East Asia, the number of Christians and members of other faiths is growing.

Bahrain is home to the headquarters of the US Navy 5th Fleet.