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Council lifeline for Manama churches.

CHURCHES in Manama could be forced to construct multi-storey car parks for worshippers to avoid closure.

The Manama Municipal Council earlier ordered government bodies concerned to enforce the law following a string of complaints from neighbours, who said worshippers blocked entrances and exits in Segaiya, Salmaniya and Mahooz.

They also claimed they often woke up to find their vehicles damaged or scratched due to the large amount of traffic generated.

However, the council, which has the power to take decisions until it is replaced by an appointed body called the Capital Trustees following next month's national elections, has thrown the churches a lifeline.

It has ordered the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry to draw up plans to ensure the places of worship remain in the areas and at the same time residents are not disturbed.

There are around 30 churches, licensed and unlicensed, clustered in the Capital Governorate's constituency five besides two expatriate social clubs.

Seven churches are located on just a 200-metre strip in a residential area of Segaiya.

"We respect Christians, who are an important pillar of our society, and the issue is with parking problems that is creating the whole mess," said outgoing council chairman Majeed Millad Al Jazeeri.

"Churches will not go anywhere and for that we have to look for real solutions and for that we have directed the ministry's urban planning directorate to draw up plans to ensure worshippers and residents get what they want.

"For example, ideas include obliging churches to have multi-storey car parks or turn nearby empty plots of land into car parks."

He said other ideas included carrying out major road works in the clustered areas to ease traffic flow and possibly create more public car park spaces.

"There are solutions to everything and officials of churches need to help us implement them -- we are speaking about the future -- and feedback from those concerned about this matter is necessary so that planning doesn't leave out anything."

However, outgoing area councillor Fadhel Al Qaidoom, whose constituency covers Segaiya and Salmaniya, rejected the move and said violating churches should be punished.

"We have nothing against licensed churches and we encourage their existence, but when religious practices cause problems then a clampdown is necessary even with ideas to resolve the problem through futuristic planning," he said.

"Residents, locals and expatriates reached a boiling point because worshippers were parking their vehicles in front of their garages.

"It is difficult to know whose car it is and even if traffic policemen are called, they normally take two hours to be there.

"By that time residents get fed up and tired.

"Some visitors even refuse to move their car, saying they are parking in a public place and no-one has the right to tell them to move."

Churches are licensed by the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry and authorised by the Social Development Ministry.

Most of the churches are officially registered as residential villas, offices or warehouses, according to council documents.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Oct 18, 2014
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