As the eyes of the world turn towards Qatar for the men’s FIFA World Cup – arguably the biggest sports tournament in the world – Christians in the host nation are expectant at what God might do, despite the threat of persecution.
Christians in Qatar are inviting the global church to join with them in praying for a move of the Holy Spirit during the World Cup.
The country is number 18 on the World Watch List and one of seven participating countries that are on the World Watch List. The others are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico and Cameroon.
Foreign Christians in the host nation can gather freely, although space is limited and there are some restrictions. During the pandemic, all 157 church buildings were closed. Since then, 61 have reopened, with many others still closed due to a revision of meeting guidelines by the government.
Meanwhile, Qatari believers – who are very small in number – are forbidden from having their own churches or even entering a church. Converts can face extreme pressure from their family and community, and there can be legal difficulties and loss of citizen status since Qatar doesn’t officially recognise conversion from Islam.
God is on the move through dreams, miracles and healings
But despite the costs that can come with following Jesus, the church in Qatar is growing – and there is the expectation that it will continue to do so during the World Cup.
“We’re expecting a big move of the Holy Spirit during the World Cup,” says the leader of a church for migrant workers and foreign nationals. “Our main focus in our prayers is that God will touch the nationals here.”
"We already see the move of the Holy Spirit in Qatar..."
“We already see the move of the Holy Spirit in Qatar,” he continues. “God is visiting people in their dreams. God is doing miracles. God is doing healings among the Qatari people.”
These observations are echoed by another church leader, called Gabr. “God is doing miracles in this land,” he says. “I can witness over years and years. God is visiting in dreams without any missionaries coming to this land. And because of the fear of the people, they cannot share the gospel openly.”
Pictures taken during a friendly match between Qatar and Bulgaria
Pray while they play
Bishop Beda S. Robles thinks the tournament ‘will be very good for Qatar, a big opportunity for this nation’. He is chairman of the Evangelical Churches Alliance Qatar (ECAQ), a recognised network of more than 90 expatriate church communities in Qatar. Most are Filipino but it also includes Nepalese, Indian and African groups.
“We as Christians are praying that this will be a victorious event,” he says. “Many of us will be serving as volunteers at the event. We pray for Qatar, we pray for the World Cup, we hope that Christians around the world will stand with us in prayer, too.”
The decision to host the World Cup in Qatar has drawn much criticism. Those living in the country have already seen welcome developments. “We have seen positive changes in social justice in this country,” says a Christian woman.
“Pray that the country will be a place where locals and foreigners can live like Christ wants them to live, with no fear for repercussions.”
However, more progress is needed. “Pray that God will bring changes,” says Daniel*, who oversees Open Doors work in the Arabian Peninsula. “Pray that Qatar will grow towards more respect for diversity, that the country will be a place where locals and foreigners can live like Christ wants them to live, with no fear for repercussions.”
“A golden opportunity”
“I believe that we have a golden opportunity during the World Cup,” adds the leader of a church for migrant workers and foreign nationals. “I hope that the name of the Lord will be magnified during the event. Pray that fear will vanish, and that people will speak openly. We believe that more miracles will happen.”
*Name changed for security reasons
- That the Holy Spirit will move mightily among people in Qatar during the World Cup
- That all fear felt by Christians will vanish and that believers will express their faith with boldness and expectation
- That the World Cup will lead to greater religious freedom for Qataris.
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