There are an estimated 1.2 million Christians in Saudi Arabia. It’s a small percentage (3.5%) of the country’s total population of 34.7 million, the majority of whom are Muslim.
What does persecution look like in Saudi Arabia?
The majority of Christians in Saudi Arabia are expatriates. Most come from low/middle income countries in Asia and Africa, but there are also some from the Western world.
Besides being exploited and poorly paid, Asian and African workers are regularly exposed to verbal and physical abuse because of their ethnicity and low status, but their Christian faith can also play a role in this. Expatriate Christians are severely restricted in sharing their Christian faith with Muslims and in gathering for worship, which entails the risk of detention and deportation. Consequently, expatriates tend to keep silent about their faith.
The few Saudi Christians from a Muslim background face even more pressure, especially from their families. Expatriate Muslims converting to the Christian faith also face strong persecution, likely similar to the levels they would have experienced in
their home country. Whether Saudi or otherwise, most converts are forced to practice their faith in secrecy.
Nevertheless, the small number of Saudi Christians has been slowly increasing, and they are becoming bolder, sharing their faith with others on the Internet and Christian satellite TV channels. Such public action has led to serious repercussions from Saudi families and authorities.
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.
What has changed compared to last year?
Despite dropping a place, the situation for Christians in Saudi Arabia remains relatively unchanged and still extremely challenging. While there is a slight reduction in reports of violence and family life opposition, there have been marginal increases elsewhere (that is, pressure in community, national and church life).
Open Doors supports the body of Christ on the Arabian Peninsula through organizing prayer, distributing Scripture resources and training believers and pastors.
- Pray that the Lord will continue to use the Internet to strengthen and unite believers, and grow the Saudi church.
- Pray that the Lord will reveal Himself to both Christians and non-Christians in dreams and visions.
- Pray for the protection of all Christians in Saudi Arabia, and for them to be given continued wisdom and discernment as they seek to follow and share Jesus.
Lord Jesus, strengthen, protect and guide all converts who boldly follow you under great risk. Provide for them a small network of Christians, where they can receive encouragement and discipleship. Use the Internet to strengthen and grow the church in Saudi Arabia. May women be given greater equality, prominence and freedom in Saudi society. Amen.