This country is no longer featured on the World Watch List
World Watch List Appearances
Where Persecution Comes From
Despite being a majority Islamic country, mainly Shia Muslims but with a ruling Sunni Muslim family, Bahrain is relatively religiously tolerant compared to its neighbors in the Persian Gulf. This relative tolerance is due to the country’s international prominence in banking and trade. However, the rulers of Bahrain are still known for consolidating power through repressive means. Christian persecution results from a prohibition against Christians proselytizing Muslims, the restriction of religious expression and the inhibited freedom of assembly imposed by state authorities. Because Bahraini society is Islamically conservative, leaving Islam is seen as a betrayal of tribe and family members, who place pressure on converts to return to Islam.
How Christians are Suffering
While Bahrain’s constitution officially grants freedom of religion, a provision also states that this freedom cannot violate established customs, policy or morals, all of which are influenced by Islam. Some expatriate Christians in the country experience relative freedom to worship but are under close surveillance by the government and security forces. Converts from Islam experience the most severe persecution, as family members and local communities pressure them to recant their Christian faith. Despite this pressure, reports of Christians being killed, imprisoned or physically harmed for their faith are rare.
In April 2017, an amendment to the Bahraini constitution ratified by King Hamad empowered military courts to try civilians charged with “acts of terrorism or violent crimes.” While the government claimed this was an attempt to fight terrorism, Amnesty International has noted that the vague wording of the amendment can be used against any perceived opposition, which could include Christians.
This follows the government’s use of unfair trials and torture to obtain confessions during a state emergency in 2011, another example of its repression of dissenting ideas and ideologies.
Why Isn't this country on the World Watch List?
Outside of the top 50.
Pray for Bahrain
- Pray that believers from Muslim backgrounds would grow in their knowledge of Christ and would become secure in their faith. Pray with those who have been shunned by their families and communities upon conversion.
- The constitutional provision for religious freedom in Bahrain is very contradictory. On one hand, it provides for religious freedom, however the law brings with it a restrictive condition, stating that the practice of religions outside of Islam “should not violate established customs, public policy, or public morals.” Pray that true religious freedom would increase in Bahrain.
- Pray that Bahraini Christians would have the courage, wisdom and boldness to reach out to their Muslim neighbors, classmates and family members.