Qatar is a low-lying desert peninsula extending about 100 miles (161 kilometers) into the Persian Gulf. It has an area of 4,473 square miles (11,586 square kilometers) and a population of 2.4 million, as of 2020. Most Qataris are Arabs, adhering to the Sunni branch of Islam, and Arabic is the country’s official language.
In about 1955, the first Seventh-day Adventists came to live in Qatar. The British government needed qualified medical personnel at the time to maintain adequate hospitals in the Gulf area, so they turned to India. Scores of Indian doctors, nurses, and technicians flooded the Persian Gulf countries, and among them were several Seventh-day Adventist nurses that landed in Qatar. Up until April of 1963, this little group of nurses had never received a visit by an Adventist minister. Carroll V. Brauer, a departmental secretary for the Middle East Division, writes, “From Dibai [sic] I traveledto Doha, in Qatar. Our eight members there and several friends attended the services on Sabbath. As far as we know, these were the first services ever conducted in Qatar by a Seventh-day Adventist worker.”*
In 1972, the Five-Day Plan to Stop Smoking was used by the Middle East Union (MEU) as a means of outreach. Kenneth Oster, an evangelist for the East Mediterranean Field, and a team of physicians spent many hours over several months putting the program together, counseling, and praying for guidance. Four unentered areas were chosen in which to initiate the program, and Qatar was one of them. The first Five-Day Plan was held May 6-10, 1972.
Qatar was added to the Gulf Section of the MEU in 1994 when the section leader, Pastor Dennis Pollatos, stationed in Kuwait, made contact with the members living in Doha. When the union president, Sven H. Jensen, visited in 1996 during an interim period without a section leader, the group requested that the MEU send an evangelist to hold meetings and have Bible studies with their friends and neighbors. In 1997, Pastor Rein Muhlberg, MEU evangelist and ministerial secretary, conducted an evangelistic series with good attendance every evening. In 1998, a new section leader, Desmond Boldeau, took over and made regular visits to the group in Doha.
With growing memberships in the Gulf countries and the increasing need for pastoral care and supervision, in 2000 the MEU divided the Gulf Section into Gulf Section North and Gulf Section South. Qatar was assigned to be part of the Gulf Section North with groups in Kuwait and Bahrain.
Eight Filipino nurses working at Hamad Hospital in Doha began to meet regularly in 1982, and attendance eventually grew to 20. District pastor Tibor Szilvasi was assigned to look after the new congregation, and in 2002 he helped organize this group into the first official Adventist company in Qatar.
The weekend in Qatar used to comprise Thursday and Friday. When the weekend was officially changed to Friday and Saturday in 2003, Adventist membership increased among expatriate workers and their families. On April 18, 2009, the Doha church, which then had more than 50 members, was officially organized by Pastor Szilvasi, who was now the secretary of the MEU. Pastor Fausto Farias became the first resident pastor of the Doha church (2009-2011).
In 2011, the Gulf Field, which includes Qatar and the Doha church, was organized by the Middle East Union. In 2013, Pastor Muyi Oyinloye succeeded Farias and remained as pastor of Doha until 2019.
Throughout the years the Doha church has maintained at least four outreach groups to provide more convenient services to Adventists in other parts of Qatar. At least one group of 30 has been meeting in Al Khor since 2013.
Even though foreign missionaries are not permitted in Qatar, six denominations are recognized. After 2007, the Qatari government gave permission to official denominations to construct church buildings. Denominations that are not officially recognized are expected to operate under one of the recognized churches, often sharing their facilities. The Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Qatar meets in an Anglican church compound and operates under its auspices. At the end of the first quarter of 2020, one organized Seventh-day Adventist church in Doha is now operating with 346 members. All members of the church in Qatar are expatriate workers and their families.
This article is from the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, which is available online .
*Carroll V. Brauer, “Adventist Groups in Qatar and Bahrein,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 11, 1963, p. 18.
Rick McEdward, D.I.S., is a pastor, church planter, and missionary. In 2016 he and his wife, Marcia, moved to Beirut, Lebanon, to serve as president of the Middle East and North Africa Union.
Melanie Riches Wixwat, B.B.A., currently lives in Beirut. She is the executive secretary of MENA and personal assistant to the MENA president. She is also assistant to the regional editor for the ESDA project.