Matthew was pleased to visit Bahrain on a Parliamentary delegation to discuss security, trade and religious freedom in the Gulf State. The delegation met with Bahraini parliamentarians, government officials, the British Ambassador Simon Martin CMG and toured HMS Juffair Naval Facility which serves to maintain security and stability in the Gulf and reflects the UK's commitment to the region, and to Bahrain in particular.
Coinciding with National Womens’ Day, Matthew also met with a delegation of female Bahrainian business leaders who spoke of the opportunities in the country. He also attended meetings with the Economic Development Board, members of the Shura (Upper Parliamentary Chamber) and the Bahrain British Business Forum.
During the visit, Matthew met with Houda Nonoo, Bahrain Ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2013. Houda was the first Jewish person and the third woman to be appointed as an ambassador of Bahrain. She is also the first Jewish ambassador of any Middle Eastern Arab country. During their meeting, Matthew discussed some of the issues of concern to his Jewish constituents and accompanied Houda on a visit to the only synagogue in Manamara which serves just 35 Jewish people out of a total Bahraini population of 700,000. The synagogue is not in everyday use and there was discussion about converting the building but the Bahrainian government would not allow its removal and Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa has even offered to pay for the construction of a new building on the site.
Matthew also visited the Shreenathji (Lord Sri Krishna) temple where devotees of Krishna - of whom there are a significant number in the Hendon constituency - have worshipped for the last 200 years and where HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall made an official visit in 2016. Finally, the visit concluded with a meeting at St Christopher's Cathedral, and Anglican Church that is part of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.
Matthew said: “For over 200 years there have been strong diplomatic, military and trade relations between Britain and Bahrain and that relationship remains as strong as ever. Bahrain was the first country to develop economies outside the oil and gas sectors in which several thousand British nationals work and there is significant defence co-operation in the areas of intelligence sharing, education, scientific and technical fields and joint training of military forces.
"In the post-Brexit world, our long-standing trade ties will provide a perfect platform to deepen and expand our trade links and it will enable markets such as Bahrain to become important in the fields of Fintech innovations that will appeal to many Islamic countries as products are developed to address crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and Islamic Finance. The country has faced challenges but is addressing them in a more constructive fashion than other middle eastern countries and seizing opportunities presented to them.”
Matthew is pictured with Houda Nonoo, the first Jewish person to be appointed as an Ambassador of Bahrain