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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #44

OMAN

Country rank

44

Persecution score

63.47

Last year’s rank

42

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Strong), Islamic oppression (Strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

5,150,000

Christians

185,000 (3.6%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Absolute monarchy

Leader

Sultan and Prime Minister Haitham bin Tariq Al Said

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in the Arabian Peninsula through:

• Prayer support

ABOUT OMAN

What does persecution look like in Oman?

In Oman, all Omani citizens are assumed to be Muslim. Islam is the state religion, and legislation is mostly based on Islamic law. Although civil courts were established more than 20 years ago, the legal system still assumes all citizens are Muslims and makes legal rulings under that assumption.  

The level of persecution for Christians in Oman depends on if they are migrant workers or if they are Omani. Local converts from Islam are under the most pressure—their families, neighbors and broader society all press them to return to their national and tribal faith. Converts can be expelled from their families and lose their jobs. Their children can be taken from them, and families could strip away their inheritance rights. 

Christians who have converted from Islam but who are not Omani face different levels of pressure based on the level of pressure in their home countries. Normally, they live in expatriate communities of people from the native land, so the local community makes a dramatic difference in the persecution that followers of Jesus face. 

The government largely tolerates foreign Christian communities, but even so, greatly restricts and monitors their public gatherings. All Christian meetings are monitored for political statements and attendance by Omani citizens. Additionally, all religious organizations must be registered with authorities.  

How women experience persecution

Within Omani Islamic culture, the worth of a woman is seen as less than a man’s value—even during court proceedings. Most commonly, women stay in the family home with their children. This encourages a mindset in which women are seen as less capable than men in many ways, which also impacts their faith, since women are not expected to have their own religious opinions. Thus, the oppressive environment makes it especially difficult for women to convert from Islam to Christianity. 

Many barriers exist preventing women from converting and meeting up with Christians. When women do convert, they are likely to face house arrest by their family, and forced into marriage if they are unmarried. Converts to Christianity do not have the option of marrying a Christian spouse, because women registered as Muslims are legally restricted from marrying a non-Muslim. 

The ill treatment of foreign workers, including sexual abuse, remains a major issue. Although not primarily faith-related, many migrant Christian domestic workers—almost all of whom are female—experience sexual abuse. 

How men experience persecution

In Oman, converting to Christianity is very difficult for Muslim men. Christian converts are likely to suffer from the ramifications of social ostracism, both by immediate and extended families, as well as by the greater community. Men who convert to Christianity are likely to lose their family’s financial support, as well as the necessary connections to find or maintain a job in Oman’s network-based society. Furthermore, no Omani family will allow their daughter to marry a Christian man, because he is seen as disrespectful to his own family by rejecting them and all they have taught him.  

If a convert has family and employment at the time of his conversion, he risks losing both. When a man leaves Islam, by law he automatically loses custody of any children; his wife might divorce him and he can easily lose his job, which has major implications for all his family members because men are traditionally the breadwinners for their families. 

As for expatriate male Christians, any pressure they experience because of their faith is most likely encountered in the workplace. 

What has changed this year?

Oman has fallen two spots on this year’s World Watch List, but persecution has actually risen in the small country in the Arabian Peninsula. Pressure in daily life for followers of Jesus—especially those who have converted from Islam—continues to be very high across the board. Oppression, discrimination and coercion are common, and even non-converts face daily discrimination and monitoring from the government and Omani society.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Omani converts are easily the most persecuted in Oman. They come under significant pressure in their private, family and community lives. This pressure slightly increases outside cities and in rural areas.  

How can I help Christians in Oman

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Oman?

Open Doors raises prayer support for Christians and churches in Oman.  

Pray

-In the Arabian Peninsula, fear is a barrier to the growth of Christ’s Church. There is a fear that if you doubt Islam, it will prevent you from entering heaven, as fear is seen as a form of unbelief in Islamic society. Then, there is the fear of what will happen if you start following Christ, the fear of trusting brothers and sisters, and the fear that one of your new fellow Christians will betray you. Please pray this bondage of fear will be broken. 

-Many believers who convert from Islam live in secret and isolation from other followers of Jesus. Believers grow to maturity best when surrounded by a community of Christians. Ask God to bring these isolated secret believers into fellowship with other believers. Pray for whole families to come to the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

-As the church of the Arabian Peninsula grows, many believers from a Muslim background seek to marry. These Christians desire to raise up families who love and honor God through Jesus. Pray for God to connect believers to one another for the purpose of marriage. Pray these Christians could shed the lies they grew up with regarding family, and renew their minds with God’s truth concerning marriage and family. Pray for God to raise up families who glorify His name. 

A PRAYER FOR OMAN 

God, we ask for the peace only You can give to fill your people living in Oman. We pray for Christians who have found Jesus even though they were raised in Islam. We pray You would protect them from their families and communities who may target them for their new faith in You. We ask You to guide Christians who are isolated in their communities to each other. We pray all these things in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters from the countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.