KUWAIT: Emmanuel Gharib, Chairman of the National Evangelical Church Kuwait and Pastor of the Kuwait Presbyterian Church, leads a Christmas mass at a church in Kuwait City on December 24, 2016. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: Christians felt that this year was the best in Kuwait, because MP Ahmad Al-Fadhl called for a public holiday on Christmas and for setting up a Christmas tree on Safat Square. “More than anything else, we are grateful to the leaders of this country. Kuwait is a tolerant country, and we really hope this will push through in the coming year,” said a pastor of a Christian congregation in Kuwait City.

Fadhl had strongly criticized a decision by Social Affairs and Labor Minister Hind Al-Subaih when she ordered to remove a Christmas tree from Dasma Cooperative Society, which is run by a private investor. Fadhl also called for declaring Christmas a public holiday and erecting a large Christmas tree on Safat Square, the largest square in downtown Kuwait City that has important historical significance. He also proposed to allow Christians to mark this occasion and allow them to exchange gifts and greetings.

Kuwait Times’ columnist Muna Al-Fuzai also encouraged Muslims to greet and exchange greetings with Christians, arguing it’s not ‘haram’ to greet ‘Merry Christmas.’ But Arnold, a Filipino convert to Islam, said Kuwait is a Muslim country and expats should respect this. “We already have freedom of religion here. We can see that Christians are not prohibited to worship in their churches. The problem is, if you give too much freedom, it might be exploited,” he said.

Fatum, a Muslim expat, said the celebration of Christmas in Kuwait is low-key. “In Jordan, which is also a Muslim country, Christmas is a grand celebration. They have parties, concerts and food fests that don’t happen in this conservative country. A holiday is fine, a Christmas tree is also fine, but if given more freedom, they will ask for more,” she said. “My family celebrates Christmas even though we are Muslims. It’s not about religion or families – it’s about strengthening our relationship with other beliefs, and that’s perfectly okay,” Fatum said.

There are around 200 Kuwaiti Christians, along with hundreds and thousands of foreign Christians in this country. The state is also home to major churches and Christmas is observed without any problems.

By Ben Garcia