What does persecution look like in Qatar?
There are two categories of Christian communities in Qatar—expatriates and converts from Islam. They are separate from each other and must be careful when interacting.
Most Christians are expatriate believers. They tend to be migrant workers and enjoy a degree of religious freedom. Large worship events have been allowed in the past, but a major issue remains a shortage of space for churches, with only a select number allowed to establish buildings at the official Religious Complex outside the capital, Doha. However, foreign Christians must be very careful when sharing their faith, as evangelizing Muslims is strictly forbidden and can lead to prosecution and deportation. Many migrant workers have to live and work in poor conditions, while their Christian faith can add to their vulnerability.
Converts from both Qatari and migrant backgrounds can face intense pressure from their families and communities for choosing to follow Jesus, although the latter can avoid this by living within an international community rather than their own ethnic one. For Qataris, conversion from Islam to another religion is forbidden, and those known to be Muslims aren't even allowed to enter a church.
There are hardly ever reports of Christians being killed, imprisoned or harmed for their faith, because the number of converts is low and they keep their faith secret.
Christians who come from Muslim backgrounds are heavily persecuted in Qatar. They are considered apostates and face discrimination and harassment from society and even risk being killed by their family. Apostasy is punishable under the criminal law.
"We already see the move of the Holy Spirit in Qatar. God is visiting people in their dreams. God is doing miracles. God is doing healings among the Qatari people."Church Leader
What has changed this year?
In the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Qatar's deplorable treatment of migrant workers increasingly caught the world’s attention. Under pressure from the West, Qatar implemented minor—and, according to human rights organizations, cosmetic—reforms in working conditions for migrant workers. In spite of the pressure to improve human rights in Qatar, no major improvements are expected, and no major changes in religious freedom for Christians are anticipated in the near future.
Qatar is increasingly using advanced technology to monitor both citizens and expatriates and there is growing concern that the government will use similar techniques to further develop population surveillance. This has caused Christians in Qatar to become increasingly careful in their movements and gatherings.
Open Doors supports the body of Christ on the Arabian Peninsula by organising prayer, distributing Scripture resources, and training believers and pastors.
- Praise God that expatriate Christians in Qatar are able to worship relatively freely.
- Pray for strength for secret believers under pressure from their families and communities. Pray that they will be able to meet with other Christians.
- Ask that God will open the hearts of the Qatar authorities so that Qataris might be able to follow Jesus openly.
Dear God, thank You for the visible presence of churches in Qatar, and we ask that the number allowed will increase. We also pray that the authorities will give Qataris greater religious freedom. Protect secret believers who are vulnerable to persecution. May they remain encouraged and steadfast in their faith, and find opportunities to gather with other Christians and even share their faith with others. Help church leaders as they navigate shepherding their congregations while under the close scrutiny of the authorities. Build Your church in Qatar, we pray. Amen.