Because Saudi Arabia is located in Western Asia and is the largest country in the Middle East, the west underestimates its growing Christian population. And rightfully so, due to persecution. It is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates to the east, and Yemen to the south. According to One News Now, Christians have lived in the Middle East for some 2,000 years, but by the 7th Century A.D., most either fled or converted to Islam. Virtually all current Saudi citizens are Muslim – 75%-90% being of the Sunni population, with the remaining 10–25% being Shia Muslim.
There are, however, about 1,500,000 Christians in Saudi Arabia, almost all foreign workers. Saudi Arabia allows Christians to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work, but does not allow them to practice their faith openly. The percentage of Saudi Arabian citizens who are Christians is officially zero, as proselytizing by non-Muslims and conversion by Muslims to another religion is illegal and punishable by death. However, Saudis who convert are more likely to be killed by family members than to be imprisoned or otherwise punished by the government.
Because of these religious restrictions, Saudi culture lacks diversity of religious expression, church buildings, annual festivals, and public events. Celebrations of Islamic holidays are tolerated only when kept small and celebrated locally, whereas Christmas and Easter are not tolerated at all. Mecca, Islam’s holiest city located in western Saudi Arabia, is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim faith itself.
Therefore, it stands to reason that Christian holidays would not be tolerated. Making it even more difficult for Christians to live in Saudi Arabia, it is the only nation in the world that refuses to build churches, so Christian churches in the surrounding Gulf states are crowded with believers every Friday and Saturday, as church construction and Christian clergy work are permitted there.
It is illegal for Saudis to possess a Bible. Nonetheless, some Saudi Arabia seekers and converts are willing to take the risk of owning one, and many Saudis are accessing Scripture through the internet and other digital media. Reuters reports that the restrictions have made private meetings, home worship, and Internet chat rooms the only ways for most Christians to practice their faith.
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.
— Luke 10:2
WHAT OUR UNDERGROUND TEAM HAS TO SAY
“Saudis are a mostly friendly and hospitable people. Saudi Arabia also has one of the world’s youngest populations, with approximately 50 percent of its population being under 25 years old. Many of this younger generation speak English and have a fascination with western culture through media and entertainment. The vast majority of workers are confined to long, demanding work hours and oppressive temperatures. Most Saudis have a deep and loyal attachment to family ties beyond what we expect and see in the west. Larger families with dozens of children were the norm, especially among the older generation. This is starting to decrease due to a rise in the cost of living and the dual work commitments, as women now are driving and are more independent.
In the summer months, communities largely confine to a mall or, if work employment affords, compounds around pools which can close off access to the nationals. In the winter, Saudi Arabia love to camp in the dessert and laugh, watch soccer, smoke shesha, and drink arabican coffee and tea in the early morning hours. Danger is only really found by the state when religion and politics are mixed. For the most part, national believers are not harassed, as judgement is left by the state to be carried out by family instead. The only known few national believers who are in prison are predominantly there only because they went public in their criticism of the state.”
AREAS TO PRAY INTO FOR SAUDIS
- That Saudi Arabia would turn from a goat nation to a sheep nation!
- For its leadership to be a government that acknowledges and loves with all their heart, soul, and strength the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and rules accordingly.
- That God will visit the people in dreams and visions; that the Lord will prepare their hearts with good soil and draw them to Him by the power of the Holy Spirit and open up their eyes to the truth that they may be set free.
- For many more laborers into the harvest in Saudi; that God will convict those whom He has per-ordained as laborers to come into the harvest field.
- For the spirit of fear be bound and for God to replace it with a vision of a rich harvest and to place a burning desire in their hearts for this.
- For those that are already interceding for and working in the harvest. Pray for protection, wisdom, provision and strength and courage; also for a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord and to be guided every step of the way by the Holy Spirit.
- Pray especially for national believers. Due to the very strict rules of Islam, it can be both dangerous and terrifying for a Saudi national to be a follow of Christ: they are likely to be rejected and persecuted by their families and typically thrown in jail, tortured and even executed. Many have been taken to the brink of suicide.
- That the Lord protects them and, with His perfect love, casts out all fear.
- For many more national believers to spring forth with a spirit of boldness: may they be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves.
- For unity among the believers and that love would abound among them.
- For a holy discontent with any belief system that is not of our Lord; for disillusionment and boredom – that nothing would satisfy so people begin seeking. With the opening up of the nation in recent years to more western influence, materialistic and western influences are gaining a significant hold. Pray that those who may already be disillusioned with the prevailing religion will not turn to atheism, but instead will turn to Christ.
- For the local church in Saudi – that it be established, flourish and grow; that it be filled with the Holy Spirit; that it become legal and visible and open to all and that love will abound and they will be of one accord, obedient to Biblical principles.
- For Saudis living abroad: that they will encounter Christians who lead them to Christ and that they develop a deep passion to bring their new-found freedom in Christ back to their nation.