Suspect detained; security beefed up

Holy Family Cathedral, Kuwait City

KUWAIT: A citizen, carrying a concealed knife, disrupted mass at the Catholic Church in Kuwait City Sunday evening. The man was later arrested by police. No one was hurt in the incident. Interior Ministry officials confirmed that a Kuwaiti man was taken by police after causing a disturbance at the Holy Family Cathedral Sunday evening. Two eye witnesses at the church confirmed to Kuwait Times that the man was carrying a long kitchen knife.

During the service, the man dressed in a traditional dishdasha walked inside the church and went straight to where the priest was speaking. A few parishioners nearby heard that the man was asking “to see the Pope”. The man then walked to the podium and tried to seize the microphone from the priest. Several ushers then came forward and escorted him from the church premises. After being led from the church, the man was handed over to police. When he saw officers approaching, the man dropped the knife that had been hidden inside his dishdasha.

An Interior Ministry official noted that the citizen, in his 60s, suffers from mental health issues. According to the same official, who asked that his name not be published, the citizen was taken by police to the Psychiatric Hospital for monitoring, where he already has a file and has been receiving treatment. The official denied involvement of any terrorist organization or threat to the church or its parishioners.

Officials from the Holy Family Cathedral confirmed the incident as well but noted that the church is well protected – police are regularly stationed outside the church during hours of operation. There is a sizable Christian community in Kuwait, approximately 750,000 adherents. There seven officially recognized churches and many of the country’s expatriate residents from India, the Philippines and other countries attend regular church services. The Catholic Church has an estimated 500,000 followers in Kuwait.

Attacks on churches or the Christian community in Kuwait are largely unheard of. But after the June 2015 suicide bombing of the Imam Al-Sadiq mosque in Kuwait City, the Interior Ministry expanded security at local churches with a regular posted police presence.

By Aakash Bakaya