World Watch List No.6
Leader: King Abdullah Population: 29.9 million (1.25 million Christians) Main Religion: Islam Government: Monarchy Source of Persecution: Islamic extremism
The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden here and conversion to another faith is punishable by death. Most Christians are expats from Asia or Africa. During 2013, several Christian migrant fellowships were raided by police and tens of worshippers detained and deported. Muslim-background believers run the risk of honour killing if their faith is discovered. Yet a small but growing number of Muslims are coming to Christ and sharing their faith on the internet and satellite TV.
- Widespread unemployment and increasing discontent amongst young people makes this a breeding ground for extremists. Ask God to halt the spread of extremist views
- That more Muslims come to know Christ by electronic means.
- In 2013, two men were convicted of proselytising and sentenced to a few hundred lashes and several years in prison. Pray for their release.
This desert kingdom controls the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina (birth and resting place of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam) and is defined by Wahhabism, a purist and strict interpretation of Islam. Extremists are widely present in the kingdom. The Saudi government is combating terrorism on a national level because it can be a threat to the royal family. However, Saudi funding of terrorism outside the country is the main source of Sunni terrorism in the world.
Most Christians here are expatriates who live and work temporarily in the country. The majority are from India and the Philippines, others are from Africa and the West. Christian Asian and African workers, besides being exploited and poorly paid, are regularly exposed to verbal and physical violence also because of their faith. Although slavery has been illegal in Saudi Arabia since 1962, the Saudi employer or ‘sponsor’ has a tremendous amount of power over foreign workers, showing that there is still a mentality of ‘owning foreign workers’. Migrant domestic workers are even threatened with rape unless they convert to Islam. However, there are frequent reports that migrant workers convert to Christianity.
There are some converts from Islam who practise their faith in secret. Many have responded to a Christian satellite TV programmes. Internet access also enables locals to get access to Christian materials. However, the use of the Internet is quite controlled in Saudi Arabia.
The small number of Saudi believers has been increasing and they are also becoming more expressive about their faith, sharing it with others on the Internet and Christian satellite TV channels. In the recent past, this public sharing has led to serious repercussions either from family or authorities.