There are an estimated 1.2 million Christians in Saudi Arabia. It’s a small percentage (3.4%) of the country’s total population of 35.2 million, the majority of whom are Muslim.
What does persecution look like in Saudi Arabia?
The majority of Christians in Saudi Arabia are foreigners who temporarily live and work in the country. Most of these workers come from low-and middle-income countries, and there are numerous reports of migrant workers being abused and being subjected to horrific working and living conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic made this reality even more obvious, as spikes in infections tended to centre in migrant communities where sanitation and social distancing were much more difficult. Christian foreign workers can be targeted for their faith since it's another way to abuse a worker. Foreign Christians are heavily restricted from sharing their faith or gathering for worship, and any actions outside of the norm can lead to detention and deportation.
There are converts from Islam in Saudi Arabia. Those who came from majority-Muslim countries likely live and work in communities that reflect the cultural norms of their home—making them at risk if their social context is opposed to conversion. The few converts who are Saudi Arabian are usually forced to live out their faith in secrecy, risking violence, divorce and more. Nevertheless, there have been some Saudi Christians in recent years who have been bold enough to share their faith, at great risk to their lives.
The level of persecution in Saudi Arabia is generally the same all over the country, although social control is likely to be higher in rural areas. A possible exception are Western expatriate compounds where there is less control and pressure to adhere to strict Islamic norms.
Adam is a Christian in Saudi Arabia who was forced to flee the country after being beaten and arrested for his faith.
“Adam is a strong believer,” says Rasheed*, one of his closest friends. “He put himself in danger for the sake of others when he helped [his sister-in-law] to flee. He is open about his faith. He wants other people to know Jesus, too. He is very active in sharing about his faith publicly. Sometimes he leaves Bibles behind in the great mosque. He goes to the mosque to pray to Jesus. In a restaurant, he shared about Jesus to a group of friends; sadly, one of them betrayed him."Adam
What has changed compared to last year?
Christian persecution remains high in Saudi Arabia and has gotten worse in the last year. The country remains an extremely difficult place to be a Christian, especially for any native Saudi who finds Jesus.
- Pray for foreign Christians, that they will be protected from mistreatment and will be able to find a Christian community where they can grow in faith and be trained to advance the gospel.
- Pray for the secret Saudi believers who must hide their faith from friends and family. Ask God to help them know they aren't alone.
- Saudi Arabia is home to the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina. The Saudi expression of Islam is often radical and intensely opposed to any deviation. Ask God to soften the hearts of religious leaders and the monarchy, that they would be open to allowing other religions to worship freely. .
Dear God, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia. Help those who live their faith in secret; help those who worship You in the midst of an abusive and dangerous work environment; help all of Your people in Saudi Arabia know You are there and that You are with them in their suffering. Bring them peace and help them feel a sense of Your mercy and love. In Jesus' name, Amen.