World Watch List: 13
Leader: King/Prime Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Population: 34.1 million
Christian: 1.4 million
Main Religion: Islam
Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression
Open Doors supports the persecuted church in the Arabian Peninsula through:
- Prayer support
”Importing Bibles may still be illegal; they can easily access the Word of God online. Satellite television and the internet are bringing down walls that have been limiting the gospel to access this country for centuries.”
– A foreign Christian worker supporting Saudi believers
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression
A new era?
According to Islamic tradition, Saudi Arabia holds the birth and final resting place of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. The country practices a purist and strict form of Sunni Islam, and declares the Quran and Sunnah (literature on Islamic traditions) as its constitution. The legal system is based on Islamic law, known as Sharia. It is forbidden to openly practise a faith other than Islam or engage in non-Islamic evangelism. All Saudis are declared to be Muslims. Leaving Islam is punishable by death. The state plays a rather passive role in persecuting Christians as societal pressure is enough to keep believers in check.
Recently, the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman introduced a series of reforms to the country, allowing much more freedom for women and the younger generation. Public enforcement of Islam has also decreased as the religious police have seemingly disappeared from the streets. It remains to be seen how this would affect the Christian population in Saudi Arabia.
The local church
There are only a small number of Saudi believers. Most of them keep their faith completely secret. Some do not know of other local Christians other than themselves. Many became Christians through Christian programmes on satellite TV or visions and dreams. If they are discovered, pressure will be applied by their family members and tribal leaders to make them return to Islam. They face losing their families, being beaten or even killed by family members because of their faith.
The foreign church
Saudi Arabia has more than 1.4 million Christians within its borders – not citizens, but expatriates working and living there temporarily, most of them Asian. They are able to gather for worship in discreet private locations; some monitored by the authorities. There are also Christian converts from Islam among the migrant workers, and although they do not face familial pressure, their current communities and employers will oppose their new faith if they are exposed.
- That despite the restrictions in the country, many more Saudis will come to know Christ.
- For local Saudi believers who face the very real threat of violence and death at the hands of their families. Pray that the Lord will protect them and may their lives be glorifying to Him.
- That isolated Christians will be able to find fellowship with other believers physically or virtually, so that they can be encouraged in their faith.