Saudi Arabia

World Watch ranking: 13
Map thumbnail
Leader
King Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

How many Christians?
2.2 million (6%)

Main threats
  • Islamic oppression
  • Clan oppression

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How many Christians are there in Saudi Arabia?

There are an estimated 2.2 million Christians in Saudi Arabia. It’s around six per cent of the country’s total population of 36.3 million, the majority of whom are Muslim.

How are Christians persecuted in Saudi Arabia?

The small number of Saudi Christians has been slowly increasing and they’re becoming bolder, sharing their faith with others online and on satellite TV – but it comes at a cost.

This is because conversion from Islam to Christianity is unacceptable under Islamic law – in fact, it's considered one of the biggest sins a Muslim can commit. If discovered, men and boys are more likely to be forced out of the home, whereas women and girls are usually isolated and abused within the home. All converts risk being killed to ‘restore’ the family honour. While some Saudi Christians are open about their faith, most choose to keep it hidden – even from their own children, so they don't inadvertently reveal their parents' faith.

Foreign Christians can face similar challenges. All expatriates are severely restricted in sharing their faith with Muslims and gathering for church activities. Doing so can lead to detention and deportation. Asian and African workers are regularly exposed to verbal and physical abuse because of their ethnicity and low status, but their Christian faith can also play a role. Persecution can be exacerbated if they are from Muslim backgrounds.

Encouragingly, there seems to be more openness in society to expressing and exploring new ideas, and some Saudis are exploring Christianity. There are also reports that many young people would not be against allowing the presence of church buildings in Saudi Arabia. Amid pressure and persecution, God is on the move.

Meet 'Waleed'

“Waleed still lives surrounded by a family who are continually involved in evil practices, but he is able to stand strong in the authority of Christ and does not live in fear.” waleed is a convert to christianity

What's life like for Christians in Saudi Arabia?

“Overall, the majority of believers are persecuted by their families, though persecution does also come from the community,” shares a local Open Doors partner. “It is important to note that the persecution doesn’t occur only once or twice. For most believers, it reoccurs day after day, year after year.

“When a Saudi gives his life to Christ, he or she begins a journey of sorting through the lies of their upbringing. A Saudi Christian also faces other challenges, such as forced isolation due to the fear of meeting other believers. Secret believers live under the fear of being discovered which could lead to the loss of their family or worse. Secret believers constantly monitor their speech to honour God without revealing their faith in Christ.

“As one example - Waleed* grew in a family steeped in black magic and similar evil practices, which are regular occurrences in Saudi Arabia even though they’re illegal. One night during his teenage years, tortured by the evil around him, he cried out to God to help him. Jesus appeared to him that night and he gave his life to Christ.

“His life hasn’t been easy. There have been various trials and struggles he has faced; however, in the midst of being surrounded by evil he found peace and truth in Christ. God planted a desire in his heart to read the Bible and to soak in the truth.

“For many years, he wasn’t able to meet other Christ followers – but eventually, the Lord used the internet to allow Waleed to connect with believers online. This provided him with needed encouragement and discipleship.”

*Name changed for security reasons

How can I help Christians in the Arabian Peninsula?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors supports the body of Christ on the Arabian Peninsula by organising prayer, distributing Scripture resources, and training believers and pastors.

please pray

Heavenly Father, thank You that the church is growing in Saudi Arabia, despite pressure and persecution. Continue to give Your children boldness as they look for ways to express and even share their faith, and lead them to people who are particularly searching for truth. Heal our brothers and sisters who carry the pain of rejection, and provide for those whose lives have been upended after their faith was discovered. Give Christian communities discernment as they seek to welcome new believers amid concerns about people spying on their activities. And may every believer find fellowship with other Christians so they know they are not alone. Amen. 

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