America is often referred to as the great melting pot because of its wildly diverse population. The blend of cultures, history and knowledge from all over the world has been a great blessing. It is oft said there is no where else on earth where so many have come to improve their lives.
Qatar may give the United States a run for its money.
Qatar is a small, wealthy and successful country. Its population of 2.7 million places it as only the 143rd most populous nation on earth. The most fascinating part of that number however, is that less than 15% of the population is native Qatari. The overwhelming majority is from somewhere else. Official estimates say 24% are Indian, 16% from Nepal, 13% are Arab, 11% Filipino and 5% each from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The Qatar workforce is made up of over 100 different nationalities.
Every day, thousands of job seekers and travelers from every corner of the globe flock to this Arab nation. Qatar’s Prime Minister HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani introduced free 96-hour transit visa for all nationalities and on-arrival visa for people of 80 countries in 2017 with the goal of becoming the most open nation in the Gulf.
The diversity is a source of great pride. Whether visiting a government office, chatting about World Cup preparations with the office of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy or visiting the Al Jazeera Network, it will only be a matter of minutes before you’re told how many nationalities are represented in their organization. The number is nearly always over 40 and often in excess of 70.
Some will assume that it is the labor force powering the tremendous growth in Qatar that makes up the bulk of expat workers. To a large extent they would be right. With better pay, better minimum living standards and a nearly crime free community, people come from near and far in hopes of creating a better life for themselves.
But Qatar is also home to a large assortment of the world’s finest experts. Experts in engineering, communications, marketing, architecture, education, healthcare and infrastructure among others are all welcomed from literally every continent. Qatar has an appetite for the best. As they grow and develop at a rapid pace, leadership has realized that in order to assure the long term success and prosperity Qatar need not reinvent the wheel. The Chairman of Qatar Airways for example, has great vision, but he also has assembled great executive talent. The gentleman in charge of Al Jazeera English is a product of the BBC. The team organizing World Cup 2022 has experience from some of the world’s biggest sporting events. Not only does Qatar recruit great talent, they welcome it, nurture it and learn from it.
Though two-thirds of Qatar’s population is Muslim, the free exercise of religion is both allowed and supported by the government. 14% of the population is Christian, another 14% is Hindu and 3% Buddhist. The balance is made up of Jewish faiths, folk religion, other faiths and those who aren’t attached to any religion.
In 2003 the Father Emir decreed open religious rights. In 2005 the Qatar government leased a 99 acre site to Christian denominations. By 2009 there was a ribbon cutting and the first church was open since Islam became well established in the region in the 7th century. On Christmas Eve the first year, more than 15,000 Catholics showed up for Midnight Mass. The church holds 2,700.
In the ten years since, the 99 acres has become home to eight churches, all on the same campus, yet all stand alone structures. The Interfaith Dialog Center not only nurtures a positive relationship between the various churches, it also helps Christians and others communicate with the government. Formally known as the Religious Center, some of the faithful prefer to refer to the area as Church City.
It is estimated there are more than 100,000 Catholics in Doha and more than 50,000 Inter-Denominational Christian Church members. The Greek Orthodox Church is on campus as are the Coptic Christians and Pentecostals. The Anglican Church not only serves its own faithful, it opens its doors 8 other small traditional Christian churches and 100 independent charismatic groups. Services are delivered in multiple languages.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 worshipers flood Church City on any given weekend. On Christmas and Easter that number tops 50,000.
One of the ministers, marveling at Qatar’s freedom of religious rights and the government support was particularly thankful for the annual meetings with the Emir. He considered it a great privilege.
Whether its research, education, work or religion, Qatar clearly embraces and encourages diversity among the people living there.