The Middle East collectively refers to the countries of Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, and the states and emirates along the southern and eastern fringes of the Arabian Peninsula, namely, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The region is loosely defined by geography and culture.
Often, the Middle East is associated with dryness, heat and the desert. Although comprised majorly by dry, deserted lands, there exists vast expense of forests and fertile valleys, giving it a sense of life in an otherwise dry region.
Islam is still by far the largest and main religion in the region, which is evident in the culture and lifestyle of the locals in the area. But as most countries open its doors to industrial and business developments, trade and foreign relations, some countries in the region had welcomed other religions as well, even Christianity. However, Catholic organizations can co-exist only for as long as there is a Catholic Church in the country to support it.
CFC: AN OASIS OF HOPE:
Who would have ever thought that amidst the barren desert, there exists an oasis of hope? That oasis is Christ through the community of Couples for Christ.
Couples for Christ had grown and continues to grow in the Middle East. It has conquered many of the countries within the Gulf Region and supported even the mission areas surrounding it. This is true to countries which have a Catholic Church established in the area to support its existence.
Since 1992 up to the present, CFC has become an oasis to an otherwise dry and empty lives of our brothers and sisters, struggling to make a living here and hoping to provide a better future for their loved ones.
The United Arab Emirates is the first country in the region and the 11th country globally, to have CFC. The UAE is composed of 7 Emirates (State) – Abu Dhabi, being its capital, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujeirah and Umm Al Quain. Starting with 13 couples in Dubai, the area has now grown to over 3,000 members comprising all ministries across the 7 emirates, making the UAE the biggest in terms of community population up to date.
Bahrain followed suit in 1993 as the 13th CFC country globally, then Egypt (20th CFC country) and Oman (23rd CFC country) in 1995, Israel (33rd CFC country) in 1996 and Libya (45th CFC country) in 1998.
Kuwait, became the 55th CFC country in 1998, which produced predominantly Indian members and until now, it has remained the only area in the region to have non-Filipino leaders spearheading its community life.
CFC was established in Yemen (56th CFC country) and Lebanon (69th CFC Country) in 1999.
CFC came to Qatar in January 6, 2000, making it the 73rd CFC country and the 1st country in the Millennium. CFC Bahrain extended support in establishing the community there starting with 6 couples, 3 handmaids, 11 servants and 2 singles, the community has now grown to around 700 members comprising all ministries. Qatar is also home to the biggest Servants of the Lord in terms of community population. For years, the community had existed without an actual Church, but rather only a Parish Center under its spiritual director, Fr. Tom Veneracion, a Filipino Parish Priest. This year Qatar became the focal area to have built the largest Catholic Church in the entire region.
Also in the year 2000, CFC came to Iraq (77th CFC country) and Jordan (78th CFC country). And finally in 2001, CFC was established in Syria, making it the 85th CFC country worldwide.
CFC in the Middle East, with its strategic geographic location, had extended its evangelization work not only among the countries in the gulf region but to areas as well ranging from the Indian Sub-Continent, Central Asia, and recently to East and Central Africa. It has adopted mission areas to nourish and to support.
CFC Middle East had become instrumental in establishing the community and extending its passion for service to mission areas such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal and even up to Seychelles.
It has made a milestone as well in establishing CFC in Eritrea, making it the 154th CFC country globally and the 1st CFC country in the next 25 years of the community.
As they say, “the reward for good service is more service”. This is true as CFC Middle East continues to take on the challenge of conquering more territories outside the region most especially in Central Asia (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan…) and East and Central Africa such as Sudan, Chad, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
*Article written for Ugnayan, CFC Newsletter in 2008