With reporting from Heba Fahmy
Following orders from the government, churches at the Religious Complex in Mesaimeer have upped safety measures this week by closing off gated parking, introducing metal detectors and beefing up security personnel.
In an email sent to congregants yesterday, the Epiphany Church and Anglican Centre said:
“Due to ongoing security concerns, the Qatar authorities have from today – Saturday 11 July, temporarily suspended parking for congregations in all of the church car parks of the religious complex,” the email read, adding, “all members will need to park in the main public car park and walk to the Centre.”
A temporary car park adjacent to the Birla Public School that was used by church-goers has also been closed, but pedestrian access through some of the gates at both the Anglican and Catholic churches is still available.
The news comes two weeks after the complex’s largest church – the Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church – also closed their gated parking lot.
Speaking to Doha News, Fr. Selvaraj Arockiam, the Catholic church’s parish priest, said that the move was a directive from Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
“The Foreign Ministry sent us word to close all of the parking a few weeks ago, but we have no idea as to why. The common parking is open to everyone, but any church that has their own parking facilities within their walls has had to suspend it,” he said.
MOFA declined to comment.
During today’s service, Arockiam also announced that access to the church, which has traditionally been open around the clock, would be closed after 10:30pm until further notice.
Meanwhile, Internal Security Forces (Lekhwiya) could be seen patrolling the area outside the compound walls today, and the usual security guards have been replaced with uniformed policemen.
Two metal detectors, which are usually only erected around Christmas, New Year’s and Easter, have also been installed at the lone entrance to the Catholic Church, though they don’t appear to be currently operational.
While it remains unclear what the security threat is, the order from the ministry came just a few days after a deadly mosque attack in Kuwait on June 26.
Some 27 people were killed and more than 200 injured there when a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the Shia mosque, in an attack that was thought to have been carried out by ISIL members.