fbpx

2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #29

QATAR

 

Country rank

29

Persecution score

67.39

Last year’s rank

27

Region

Middle East  North Africa

Persecution Type

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

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

2,792,000

Christians

367,000 (13.1%) 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

Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

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

• Prayer support

ABOUT QATAR

 What does persecution look like in Qatar?

Life for Christians in Qatar can look very different depending on what type of Christian you are. There are two general categories: Christian foreigners, most of whom are migrant workers, and Christians who have converted from Islam.

Foreign workers who are Christians are much freer to worship. For instance, the government has allowed large worship events in the past. Even for these followers of Jesus, however, any evangelism to Muslims is strictly forbidden and can lead to deportation. Additionally, many migrant workers (of any faith) are mistreated and abused—Christian migrant workers may be doubly targeted for this type of abuse because of their job and their faith. And even though the government provides land for migrant Christians to build churches, churches are often monitored and kept to specific areas. 

Muslims who convert to Christianity face much more significant persecution. Converts from both indigenous and migrant backgrounds bear the brunt of persecution. Local Qatari converts face very high pressure from their Muslim families. Converts from a migrant background are primarily controlled by the social environment they live in. Often, the social norms of their home countries apply to them rather than Qatari cultural norms. In some cases, they can avoid pressure by living within an international community, rather than their own ethnic community. Nonetheless, even their employers can be a source of persecution. 

Both indigenous and migrant converts risk discrimination, harassment and police monitoring. Moreover, conversion from Islam to another faith is not officially recognized and is likely to lead to legal problems in personal status and property matters. 

How women experience persecution

While women in general in Qatar face restrictions and limitations to their human rights due to Shariah Law and a strict interpretation of Islam, these same restrictions make Christian women particularly vulnerable to religious persecution. General limitations on women include being required to obey husbands, being legally vulnerable to domestic violence, and being restricted legally to inherit half of what a similarly situated male relative would receive. Qatari women and girls are subject to guardianship by their male family members, which means that authorities cannot interfere with whatever happens in the family home.

This is especially difficult for female converts to Christianity, as their families have the authority to remove their right to travel, keep them under house arrest, deny them access to money, and expel Christian women from the family home in a society where a woman cannot easily live alone. Female converts risk being ostracized by their families or communities. They also risk facing physical violence, or even honor killings if their new faith is discovered. 

Additionally, women from a Muslim background are legally restricted from marrying a non-Muslim. Therefore, Christian converts may be forced to marry a Muslim man who is expected to humiliate her to convert her back to Islam—giving him the ability to restrict her freedom for her entire life. Some converts may even be forcibly married to one of their most religious uncles or nephews as a second wife, where she may live a life essentially as a sex slave, deprived of any community or respect.

House maids working in Qatar often face sexual harassment or slave-like treatment. The ill treatment of migrant workers, including sexual abuse, has become a high-profile issue at the international level. Although not primarily faith-related, many Christian domestic migrant workers, almost all of whom are female, experience sexual abuse. 

 How men experience persecution

Although most Christians try to keep a low profile in Qatar, when a Christian does come under public scrutiny, it’s usually a male Christian. This is because it is almost always men who are visible in the public sphere and, therefore, at the forefront of interaction with authorities. Those in Christian leadership are required to report details of church activities; these leaders are also men and are particularly subject to scrutiny.

Male converts are not immune to domestic pressure. When their conversion becomes known, the larger family can threaten to take away their wives and children and place them with another family. Even in the best circumstances, the wives may agree to live with their husband on the condition that the children will not be informed of the husband’s Christian faith. Such converts might be able to privately carry out acts of Christian worship, but they cannot then share their faith with their children. These combined restrictions mean that Qatari men are effectively isolated and find it very difficult to meet with other Christians or be taught and grow in their faith.

Employment is another pressure point for Christian male converts, because the loss of a man’s status and job will affect the whole family, through income loss, future job prospects and social isolation.   

What has changed this year?

Qatar fell two spots on the World Watch List since last year’s list. However, persecution levels actually rose in the country, so Qatar’s rank is more an indicator of the general rise of persecution against Christians around the world. Violence against Christians in Qatar fell a bit—though it is usually low—but pressure from community, family, society and other non-violent sources actually increased. National life was the main place in daily life the pressure increased, and drove the main slight rise in score. It is still incredibly hard for Christians—particularly Muslim converts—to live out their faith in Qatar.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Christians who have converted from Islam are most at risk in Qatar, including both migrant workers and indigenous Qatari citizens. 

Qatar has a massive population of migrant workers—a recent estimate indicates only 12 percent of the population are indigenous Qataris—so many workers come from a variety of faith backgrounds. Nonetheless, there is significant pressure if they follow Jesus instead of Islam. That pressure can come from their own migrant communities, or from the broader Qatari society. Converts who are able to find a livelihood and home in an international community often experience less persecution, but they can still be targeted. 

Indigenous Qataris who convert to Christianity face significant repercussions from family and community, especially since Qatari society embraces a conservative strain of Islam.  

How can I help Christians in Qatar

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Qatar?

Open Doors raises prayer support for Christians in Qatar and throughout the Arabian Peninsula. 

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

Pray

-Pray God works powerfully in Qatar. We hardly hear of any locals who come to faith. Ask that God’s people will be brought into contact with those willing to hear the gospel.

-Pray migrant workers are protected from the abuse and discrimination of their employers and not additionally targeted for their faith in Jesus.

-Pray for secret Christians in Qatar who have accepted Jesus but cannot be open about their new faith. Pray their family and community would allow them to worship freely, and the surrounding society would embrace an openness to other faiths besides Islam.

A PRAYER FOR QATAR

Dear Lord, We pray for our brothers and sisters in Qatar. We particularly lift up those people who have found the truth of Christ and converted from Islam. We pray protection over them and a spirit of peace and hope. We also lift up Christians who are migrant workers. Spare them from workplace abuse, racism and xenophobic attacks. We pray all of this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.