Year: 2019
World Watch List: 45
Score: 58
Leader: President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Population: 9.5 million
Christian: 1.2 million
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Federation
Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression
Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Arabian Peninsula through:
  • Prayer support
Source of persecution: Islamic oppression

Islam dominates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is made up of seven emirates that united into a federal state in the early 1970s. Islam dominates every aspect of life, and all citizens are defined as Muslims. Emiratis themselves expect Islamic governance from their rulers, with Sharia (Islamic law) as the principal source of legislation. The society is conservative, and it presents so much pressure to Christians that believers automatically practice self-restraint in living out their faith, and the government does not have to act.

More church buildings needed

Like some other countries in the Gulf, the UAE is relatively tolerant towards other religions and probably has the highest number of registered churches in the entire Arabian Peninsula. These churches are only for the massive group of expatriates in the country, which account for around 85% of the population. There are more than two dozen churches, but it is not enough to meet the demand, and it is difficult to establish new ones. Because proselytising to Muslims is strictly forbidden, Christians have to be careful when interacting with Muslims. Worship, preaching, or praying are not allowed in public.

Converts of many nationalities

There are Emirati and foreign Christian converts from Islam in the UAE. They face high pressure from their families, relatives, employers, and communities. Foreign converts usually come from Asian or African countries and they are looked down on by the Emirati nationals. Becoming a Christian makes them doubly vulnerable to abuse from their employers and may be fired or made to work for ‘free’. Emirati converts are likely to lose their job and family when they are discovered, and pressurised to recant. Many converts have had to flee to another emirate or country because of the pressure.


  • For God to grow the local Emirati church, and that they will be bold in witnessing for Christ.
  • That both Emirati and foreign expatriate Christians have the wisdom to share the gospel despite the restrictions on evangelism.
  • For leaders of the UAE to have wisdom and tolerance to allow their citizens to change their faith.

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