Reaching the Nations

Qatar

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 11,586 square km.  Located on the Arabian Peninsula surrounded by the Persian Gulf, Qatar occupies the Qatar Peninsula.  The arid climate experiences mild winters and hot summers.  Terrain consists of flat desert with little to no vegetation.  Haze and dust storms are common natural hazards.  The greatest environmental issue is overreliance on desalinated sea water to meet fresh water demand.  Qatar is divided into 10 administrative municipalities. 

Population: 833,285 (July 2009) - Note: population estimates range as high as 1.9 million.

Annual Growth Rate: 0.957% (2009)

Fertility Rate: 2.45 children born per woman (2009)

Life Expectancy: male 73.66, female 77.14 (2009)

Peoples

Arab: 40%

Indian: 18%

Pakistani: 18%

Iranian: 10%

Other: 14%

There are only 250,000 Qatari citizens.[1]  More men than women reside in the country due to male immigrant workers being unable to obtain visas for their families or being unable to afford family travel.

Languages: Arabic, English.  Arabic is the official language.  Predominant immigrant languages include Farsi, Filipino languages, Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil, Sinhalese, and Balochi.  Most immigrant workers do not learn Arabic.  No languages have over one million speakers. 

Literacy: 89% (2004)

History

Ancient peoples inhabited the peninsula for millennia prior to the birth of Christ.  Islam arrived in the seventh century AD and exploring and trading occurred with peoples throughout the Indian Ocean during the Middle Ages.  The British took control in the nineteenth century and made Qatar a protectorate in 1916.  Influence from the British declined in the mid-twentieth century and independence occurred in 1971.  The royal al-Thani family has ruled Qatar since the nineteenth century.  Over the past four decades the country has transformed from a poor nation into one of the wealthiest.  Qatar has seen very few acts of terrorism and violence.

Culture 

Qatar shares many similarities in culture with neighboring Saudi Arabia.  Sharia law provides the basis for governance, but Qatar has more liberal laws than many other Arab nations.  Education is highly emphasized.  Alcohol and pork are not served publicly.  Coffee is widely consumed and it is rude for a guest to refuse tea or coffee offered by a host.  Cuisine includes Indian, Pakistani and North African influences.  Seafood is the primary native cuisine.  Foreign worker salaries differ on country of origin.  Qatari women prefer to stay in the home.  Most marriages are arranged and require the consent of the bride.  Polygamy continues with some Qataris but has declined in popularity in recent years.  Women may divorce their husband if he takes another wife.[2] 

Economy

GDP per capita: $121,400 [262% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.910

Corruption Index: 6.5

Qatar has experienced rapid economic growth over the last several decades through oil and natural gas exploitation.  Oil and gas produce half the GDP and 85% of export revenues.  Natural gas reserves are the third largest in the world.  Industry and services account for 66% and 34% of the GDP respectively.  Unemployment ranks among the lowest in the world (0.5%) and the GDP per capita is contested as the highest or second highest.  Primary trade partners include Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Singapore. 

Corruption levels are among the lowest in the Middle East.  Greater awareness of corruption in Qatar has risen in recent years yet there remain no anti-corruption organizations.  Allegations of corruption are most numerous towards higher ranking Qatari officials. 

Faiths

Muslim: 77.5%

Christian: 8.5%

Other: 14%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Roman Catholics  100,000

Anglicans  15,000

Egyptian Copts  3,000

Latter-Day Saints   300  2

Religion

Sunni Muslims are the majority whereas Shi'a Muslims comprise less than five percent of the population.  Hindus likely number over 100,000 and Buddhists may account for 150,000 to 200,000 people.  Most Christians are Catholic.  Notable Christian minorities include Anglicans, Egyptian Copts, and Greek and Eastern Orthodox.  Only the Catholic Church has a chapel which was recently constructed.  Fewer than 500 Qatari citizens are Christian.[3] 

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index: 23rd

Legislation and the constitution allow for individuals to associate, assemble and worship as long as they preserve morality and public order.  Islam is the official religion.  Proselytism by non-Muslims is forbidden and can result in up to a 10 year jail sentence.  Those in possession of materials supporting or promoting non-Muslim religions can be imprisoned for up to two years; however there has never been a case where this law has been enforced since its passage.  Law restricts places of worship.  Conversion of Muslims to other religions is classified as apostasy and can result in the death penalty although there has been no instance in which this has been enforced since independence.  Islamic holidays are national holidays.  Both Muslims and non-Muslims are subject to elements of both secular and Shari'a law.  Violence directed towards religious minorities is rare.

Christian groups can receive government recognition if they have over 1,500 members living in Qatar.  Only six groups are recognized: Catholic, Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, and Indian Christian.  Christian churches with smaller memberships may worship and receive government security if needed.   The publication, importation and distribution of religious books is controlled by the government but individuals and religious groups were not restricted in trafficking religious materials for use at home or in congregations.[4]

Largest Cities

Urban: 96%

Doha, Ar-Rayyan, Al-Wakrah, Umm Salal, Musayêid, As-Sahì¨Aniyah, Duhì an, Al-Hìawr, Al-Jumayliyah, Al-Wukayr.

One of the 10 largest cities has a congregation.  55% of the national population lives in the 10 largest cities.  80% of the national population lives in Doha and its suburbs. 

LDS History

As of mid-2008 the Church did not have legal recognition from the government.  Members have likely been meeting since the 1990s. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership:  ~300 (2009)

Although the Church does not report official membership totals for Qatar, membership in the Arabian Peninsula Stake stood at 900 in 2004.  By 2009, membership in the Arabian Peninsula Stake reached  1,950.[5]  In late 2009, many expatriate Western members continued to relocate to Qatar.  Most of the expatriates came from Texas, consisting primarily of oil and gas industry employees and their families in addition to U.S. military personnel.  In 2009, the Doha 1st Ward had around 170 attending sacrament meetings and 55 children in primary.  Increases in membership growth come primarily from members moving to the area and from non-Muslim converts, mainly Filipinos.

Congregational Growth

Wards: 2 Groups: 1

In 2000, Qatar was assigned to the Europe Central Area and had one congregation.  The Doha Branch likely became a ward in the mid-2000s and was later divided in the late 2000s to create the Doha 2nd Branch which soon became a ward.  By 2009, 16 units functioned under the Manama Bahrain Stake; an increase of four units from the year before.  The Doha 2nd Ward meets the needs of Filipino members whereas the Doha 1st Ward serves other members.  A group for members serving in the US military also functions in Qatar.  No missionaries serve in the country.

Activity and Retention

It is very difficult to determine activity rates as the bulk of membership arrived in the past decade and there are likely many inactive members not on Church records for Qatar.  Activity rates are likely over 50%.  Retention of new converts appears to be high. 

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: English, Arabic, Farsi, Tagalog, Cebuano, Sinhalese, Tamil.

All LDS scriptures are available in Arabic, Cebuano and Tagalog.  Only the Book of Mormon has been translated in Sinhalese and Tamil.  Most Church materials are available in Arabic, Cebuano, and Tagalog.  Gospel Principles, The Prophet Joseph Smith's Testimony and Book of Mormon selections are available in Farsi.  Church materials in Urdu include The Prophet Joseph Smith's Testimony and a couple audiovisual materials.  Several DVD movies such as Finding Faith In Christ and The Restoration are available in Tamil in addition to temple recommend instructions, limited priesthood and leadership resources, Gospel Principles, and some primary resources.  Limited Church material translations for priesthood, relief society, Sunday School, young women, and primary are available in Sinhala. 

Meetinghouses

Church meetings have been held in a rented villa.  Meetings for members in the military likely occur on base.

Humanitarian and Development Work

No humanitarian or development work has been sponsored by the Church in Qatar.  The government issued deportation orders to members of a Christian group for unauthorized charity work among workers in labor camps.  These orders were never carried out however.[6]

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

The Church is not recognized by the government and therefore cannot publicly provide information concerning locations and times for worship services.  Members who relocate to Qatar have had challenges locating the Church.  In 2009, the Church made available the bishops' contact information on its meetinghouse locator site which allows interested individuals to inquire about meeting times and locations.  Members report that the Church is viewed positively by many of their Qatari neighbors. 

Cultural Issues

Islam and daily life are intimately intertwined and prevent active proselytism.  Qataris who wish to join the Church face many cultural hurdles including family and friend disapproval and ostracism.  Those who participate in a polygamous relationship must divorce additional spouses prior and be interviewed by a member of the mission or area presidency prior to baptism.  Coffee and tea's central role in Qatari cuisine creates barriers between active members and natives. 

Cultural similarities between Qataris and Church members, such as strong emphasis on family, a love for children, and high moral values, have resulted in some friendships between the two groups.  In accordance with the Muslim day of worship, Church meetings are held on Fridays. 

National Outreach

The Church is banned from any proselytism, resulting in the entire population being unreached by missionaries.  Only non-Muslims with close associations with members living in Qatar have any outreach to the Church.  The high concentration of the population in Doha requires fewer meeting locations and the establishment of wards.  Members living in areas distant to the current meetinghouse provide opportunity for the creation of additional congregations.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Converts who join the Church in Qatar are limited to non-Muslims and are mostly Filipinos.  Member activity and convert retention in the country of origin most likely reflects member and convert activity in Qatar.  Higher activity and convert retention may occur at least in part due to members and converts seeking social interaction in a foreign country.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

The demographic complexity of Qatar creates challenges for members to assimilate into the same congregation with differences in language and culture.  Hostilities between ethnic groups appear minimal.  A rich demography in congregations provides for far-reaching outreach through members' efforts. 

Language Issues

The division of the original Doha Ward was likely partially influenced by language differences between the large group of Filipinos and Western members primarily from the United States.  Non-Muslim immigrant workers from South Asia are difficult to reach as the Church has few members in these countries, yet many of these individuals likely have some competency in English.  Very few members speak Arabic fluently, limiting associations between members and native Qataris or other Arabs.

Leadership

Leadership is developed and well-trained as indicated by the function of two wards.  Native leadership is non-existent as most members joined or were raised in the Church in the United States or the Philippines.  Western Church leaders help to maintain doctrinal integrity well but may have some difficulty relating with immigrant workers, the only group from eligible for converts to join the Church. 

Temple

Qatar is assigned to the Frankfurt Germany Temple district.  Trips to the temple are challenging due to long distance and time.  Potential for a future temple in the United Arab Emirates or in the Middle East would eliminate many of the limitations members face to go to the temple

Comparative Growth

Qatar has experienced accelerated membership growth comparable to the United Arab Emirates.  Many nations in the Middle East experience slower growth and a stronger American military member presence.  Oman and Kuwait have had a Church presence for likely as long as Qatar, but both nations experience much slower growth than Qatar despite their similarly sized large foreign populations.  The degree of religious freedom for LDS members is comparable to Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Some Christian denominations have obtained legal recognition by exceeding 1,500 members.  However these denominations have had a presence much longer than the LDS Church.  The most recently arrived groups experience few conversions in Qatar and are comparable in membership size to the LDS Church.

Future Prospects

The outlook for continued membership and congregational growth is favorable.  The growing economy continues to bring more members to Qatar.  However, relocating members continue to experience difficulty finding the Church.  Additional congregations may be organized as the Doha 1st Ward may soon exceed the occupancy of its meeting location.  Some recognition from the government may soon occur, allowing the Church to publish meeting times and locations locally. 


[1] "Qatar," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127356.htm

[2] "Qatar," Countries and their cultures, retrieved 4 March 2010. http://www.everyculture.com/No-Sa/Qatar.html

[3] "Qatar," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127356.htm

[4] "Qatar," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127356.htm

[5] Chatterly, Matt. "Growth, friendship serve as Middle East ‘Miracles'," LDS Church News, 7 March 2009. http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/56735/Growth-friendship-serve-as-Middle-East-miracles.html

[6] "Qatar," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127356.htm