Calls by members of the Kuwaiti government to ban the construction of Christian churches have damaged the Gulf state’s international reputation, a senior religious official has said. Emmanuel Gharib, pastor of the National Evangelical Church in Kuwait, told the Arab Times that those behind a recent proposal to prohibit the building of new churches should issue a public apology. In February, Kuwaiti MP Osama Al-Munawer announced via Twitter that he planned to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country. He later played down his remarks, clarifying that existing churches should remain but the construction of new non-Islamic places of worship should be banned. Controversy surrounding the proposal went into overdrive in March when Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, apparently told a delegation Kuwait that all Christian churches in the Arabian peninsula should be destroyed. Gharib claimed that more than half a million around the world had expressed disappointment over proposals to remove Christian churches, which were contrary to Kuwait’s constitution, the paper reported. According to figures published in the Kuwait Times in February, there are currently 500,000 Christians residing in the Gulf state, most of whom are of Turkish, Iraqi or Palestinian descent. The number of Kuwaiti nationals who are Christian has fallen from 500 in 2007 to just 50 this year, the daily reported.