In an earlier post, "Vanishing England": Changing Demographics and the Catholic Church in the U.S. and England, I wrote about the increasing numbers of Muslims and Catholics in the United States and England. In both countries, increasing numbers of Catholics are immigrating from other parts of the world. The Church faces the prospect of assisting those people in understanding and adapting to American and English culture.
Today, Sandro Magister posted an article about the immigration of Catholics to and from traditionally Muslim countries, primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Magister's article is titled The Christians Are Coming Back to Arabia -- Fourteen Centuries After Mohammad.
Only three months ago, the Holy See established diplomatic relations with the U.A.E. However, Magister reports, as Christians are fleeing Lebanon, Iraq and the Holy Land, and Christianity faces potential extinction in those countries, Christian immigrants now comprise some 35% of the population of the U.A.E. Almost all of the U.A.E.'s citizens are Muslim, but immigrants now make up about 70% of the population, and half of those immigrants are Christian immigrants from Arab countries, Pakistan, the Philippines, India and Bangladesh. The Christians are predominately Catholic. Moreover, Saudi Arabia now has an immigrant population of about 1 million Catholics immigrating from the Philippines.
Magister's article considers the situation facing the new Catholic populations of those Muslim countries and the changing face of the Church as Catholic refugees live in poverty in large numbers in countries that are enjoying rapid economic growth. The Catholics in those countries are largely low paid manual labor. Says Magister:
"They are the new poor of Dubai and its surroundings. Few of them make more than 200 dollars a month, and they work an average of 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, in temperatures that can reach 50C (122F). They live in suburb-dormitories that are as large as cities, but completely devoid of services."
The Catholic Church is often seen as wealthy and powerful, an image based on architecture and artwork that it holds, largely from past centuries. However, the present face of the Church includes Catholic immigrants motivated by poverty and persecution to move to predominately Arab lands where they work at low paying jobs with no potential to become permanent residents.
The previous post here mentioned the increasing need for the Catholic Church to assist its immigrant members. in the U.S., the Catholic Church still has an image based upon prosperous Irish and Italian immigrant families although it now includes a large percentage of poor Hispanic immigrants. In England, the Catholic Church now rivals the Church of England in size and includes a large percentage of immigrants from other parts of Europe and elsewhere. The Catholic Church in our countries may be better positioned than government to interact with those people and to help them adapt to their newfound homes.
Magister's post today considers the newly forming face of the Catholic Church in traditionally Muslim countries, where an even greater challenge faces the Church today. There, it is a different kind of challenge, where Catholics are becoming a large population in countries with few Christian citizens, and assimilation into the general population may not be possible at the present time.