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.
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.
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As a former Muslim in Bahrain who is now trusting in Christ, Hamad* is persecuted by his own family for his faith. He cannot attend Christian worship services or Bible studies without hiding his activities, and is also harassed by community leaders since his conversion… Read More