In Dubai Christians are free to worship but must not try to convert anyone, reports the BBC. Churches cannot display crosses, and those who preach publicly or try to persuade Muslims to convert can expect jail and deportation.
The UAE, of which Dubai is a part, has crippling restrictions on freedom of speech, the report says. “There’s widespread media censorship and dozens of activists are in jail. But it also has a little-known history of religious tolerance” says the BBC’s Matthew Teller.
In 1966, the year oil was discovered in Dubai, Sheikh Rashid donated a pocket of land to a Roman Catholic mission. The city has since grown up around it, and St Mary’s now stands beside a busy four-lane road in central Dubai.
Father Lennie Connully says the church receives “7,000 for Friday Mass” (main church services in Muslim countries are usually held on Fridays, for most the one non-work day of the week), which is held in many different languages. Thousands also attend different language services at the nearby Protestant Holy Trinity Church.