The 5-5-5 Challenge: A Story of Persecution in Qatar
This tiny country along the Arabian Peninsula is home to the Al Jazeera news agency, well developed with the lowest illiteracy rate in the Arab world and in 2022 is planned to be home to the World Cup. Qatar has a small indigenous population and there are actually more foreign workers than native Qataris. In the mix of all of this are Christians, who face a great deal of persecution. The following is an exclusive interview with a Christian who is able to tell us what life is really like for Christians in Qatar. What is daily life like for a Christian in Qatar? The largest part of the body of Christ in Qatar are actually Christian migrant workers from countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Many of them live in labor camps (yes they are really called labor camps). They work from the early morning to late at night, sometimes seven days in a week. After work, they return to their labor camp where they eat and sleep. The working conditions are very harsh; the construction sites, where many of them work, are unbearably hot in summer where temperatures can easily exceed 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 C). It is not uncommon that people die from heat stroke or exhaustion. Christian fellowship inside labor camps is prohibited and needs to be done in secret. Female migrant workers who work in Qatari homes are vulnerable to sexual abuse and other forms of physical abuse. Just like most places on the Arabian Peninsula, the position of women is weak and they’re at the mercy of caprice protectors, who are mostly Muslim men. As for the daily life of local Qatari Christians; there are a few and they tend to keep their faith a secret (while trying to live according to Biblical guidelines). In Qatar, a Muslim who converts is considered an apostate and may face the death penalty. Has this happened recently? There are converts to Christianity, but fortunately we have not heard of death penalties against new believers. Actually we are not aware of any death penalty because of ones faith since the countries’ independence in 1971. Should it become known that someone wants to convert to Christianity, the pressure from families or their peers will be severe. The following quote from a Qatari citizen on what will happen if a son of a Muslim wants to convert to Christianity, is characteristic of the family pressure on Muslim Background Believers (MBB): “When he wants to convert to Christianity? If he’s 10 years old, his dad will show him verses from the Qur’an. If he’s 15 years old, his dad will take him to a mosque to teach him lessons. If he’s 20 years old, a cousin will kill him or the family will hire someone else to kill him.” From time to time, we receive reports that MBBs are physically harmed for their faith by family or peers, who view the conversion as harming the honor of the family. As a result of this oppression, MBBs strongly protect their anonymity for fear of gossip and betrayal. The World Cup will be in Qatar in 2022. Do you think that the country will strive to improve in regards to religious and human rights, since the whole world will be watching at that time? Qatar is eager to present itself well to the outside world; it strives to be a country of significance within the region that is highly esteemed in the West. The country wants to be a logistical hub between the West and the Far East. Qatar wants to be taken serious politically; for example it was the only Arab country that participated in the allied air strikes on Libya. Qatar also is proud to be home to the well-known Al Jazeera news agency. The country wants to be in a position where it is seen in the world and the World Cup is part of this ambition. Honestly, I do not expect that religious or human rights will improve due to the World Cup. However, it is my prayer that the international attention on Qatar during this event will also focus on these basic human rights for Qataris and foreign workers in the country. A third Christian complex is being built in the country (until this year there have only been two in the entire country). Is this a sign of more freedoms for Christians? Although it is good that there is a recognized place of worship for Christians, I do not see this as a sign of more freedom for Christians. Christian fellowship is outlawed in the small country of Qatar except for migrant workers in the designated area outside the city. This area is too small to accommodate all migrant working Christians in Qatar and it is also too remote. Qatari Christians are not given any freedom by the government. How should we be praying for our brothers and sisters in Qatar?
- Pray for Indigenous Christians. Please pray that they will experience fellowship with other believers. Often the situation is very difficult for a MBB. Who can you trust to share your new found faith with? Pray that they will not become isolated.
- Pray that the country will not only present itself like a moderate and modern country, but also show that it can be. Despite the rapid changes over the past decades and growth in wealth, their Islamic heritage and culture stands firm. There is no openness to other religions, which makes it difficult for foreign workers, let alone for local believers.
- Please find this YouTube clip for a little more background information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo4A6wmI3AQ