What does persecution look like in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is a highly conservative Islamic nation and other religions cannot be practised openly. No official churches of any Christian denomination are allowed and it remains one of the few countries in the world where church buildings are forbidden.
Most Christians in Saudi Arabia are migrant workers from Asia and Africa. They are often exploited and poorly paid, and face discrimination because of their ethnicity, but also because of their Christian faith. There are also Christians from other parts of the world. Foreign Christians are severely restricted in sharing their Christian faith and in gathering for public worship. Those who do so risk detention and deportation.
There are also a small number of Saudi Christian converts. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is unacceptable under Islamic law, so many live as secret believers. Those whose faith is discovered face severe pressure, especially from their families. Despite the risks, the small number of Saudi Christians is slowly increasing and some are boldly sharing their Christian faith on the internet and Christian satellite TV channels. This has led to serious repercussions from their families and the authorities.
Foreign workers who convert to Christianity often live within their own national or ethnic communities and so experience the same pressure they would in their home countries.
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.
Saudi converts from Islam to Christianity face the most persistent and extreme pressure. There are relatively few Saudi converts in the country and they generally live out their Christian faith in secret. If discovered, men and boys are more likely to be forced out of the home, whereas women and girls are usually isolated and abused within the home. Both genders risk being killed to ‘restore’ the family honor.
“We thank God for His gifts, and for your standing with us and helping me to safety. I feel that today I can live again."Adam, a believer who fled Saudi Arabia after being imprisoned for his faith
What has changed this year?
Saudi Arabia dropped slightly on the World Watch List, mostly due to a slight decrease in violence against Christians. There were no reports of Christians being arrested, sentenced or forced into marriage, or of Christian houses or property being attacked. However, physical violence against converts remains high, and a number of converts were forced to leave their homes.
Open Doors supports the body of Christ on the Arabian Peninsula by organising prayer, distributing Scripture resources, and training believers and pastors.
- Please pray that secret believers who are isolated will find ways to connect with other believers online.
- Pray for greater gender equality in Saudi Arabia and an end to the oppressive treatment of women.
- Thank God for the courage of believers who are sharing their faith. Pray that God will continue to build His church through their witness.
Dear Father, we lift our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia up to you. Draw near to secret believers and encourage them in their isolation. Protect those whose Christian faith is known and work in the hearts of their families to cultivate greater acceptance and openness towards You. Bring healing to migrant workers who have endured exploitation and abuse. Make a way for Christians to meet and encourage one another. Amen.