Manama: Bahrain’s First Lady has called for greater religious tolerance in the world.
“Religious tolerance is a right that must be sacred throughout the world, but unfortunately that is not the case,” Princess Sabeeka Bint Ebrahim Al Khalifa said at the Freedom Pal, an event held next to the Notre Dame Church in Paris.
Bahrain is the guest of honour at the annual one-day pro-religion event attended by around 60,000 people.
“We are proud as Bahrainis of our dedication to religious freedom. Every Bahraini can practice his or her religion freely and the King is keen on the respect of religious freedom, enshrined in our constitution and concretised in everyday life, regardless of the difficulties and obstacles,” Princess Sabeeka said as she highlighted the major initiatives in Bahrain to promote dialogue between religions, cultures and civilisations. “Tolerance and the respect of differences is a daily challenge and each of us, in our capacity, should contribute to the success,” she said.
Princess Sabeeka who delivered her note in French said that religion did not hinder political or social participation.
“Today, Bahrainis of all creeds assume responsibilities within the civil society, the parliament and the government,” she said.
Predominantly Muslim, Bahrain has a small community of Christians and a smaller presence of Jews.
However, all religions are represented in the upper chamber of the parliament. The ambassador to the US, Hoda Nonoo, is a Jewish woman and the head of the diplomatic mission in the UK, Alice Samaan, is a Christian woman.
Last month, Nancy Khedouri, the third Jewish Bahraini to be appointed to the Shura Council, upper chamber of the bicameral house, was elected by her peers as the deputy chairwoman of the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee.
The majority of Christian Bahrainis are originally from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and India. The majority tends to be Orthodox Christians and the Greek Orthodox Church is the largest church by membership.
The Jewish community began to settle in Bahrain in the early 1900s and most of its members were traders from Iraq, Iran and India looking for a peaceful place.
Despite the waves of anti-Israel protests upon the creation of Israel in the Arab world, no Jewish business has ever been vandalised or destroyed in Bahrain and no shop sign was ever taken down or marred.
The Jewish cemetery in Manama, well kept for more than 100 years, is next to the Christian cemetery and across the street from the Shiite graveyard.