|Persecution Type:||Islamic oppression|
|Persecution Level:||Very High|
|Leader:||King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud|
Saudi Arabia is a strongly Islamic nation; according to Islamic tradition, it is the place of the birth and final resting place of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. Saudi Arabia’s strict branch of Islam governs every aspect of life for its citizens. Openly practicing other religions is illegal, and leaving Islam is punishable by death. All Saudi citizens are required to be Muslim, and non-citizens of other faiths are expected to worship privately. The spike in pressure from family life from the 2019 to the 2020 World Watch List reflects the brutal reality for Christians who have converted from Islam—these believers risk violence because of their decision to follow Jesus.
Saudi believers must keep their faith completely secret. Christian from other countries risk arrest or being deported if they share their faith with Muslims. Some Saudis have had dreams and visions of Jesus. Many others have responded to Christian content on TV or the internet.
The total persecution score rose two points compared to the 2019 World Watch List—and it also rose to No. 13 from No. 15 on the list. Pressure increased in five of the six spheres of life, while the violence score was unchanged.
In addition to family pressures, Christian converts are also at high risk of Christian persecution in the community, including charges of apostasy punishable by a death sentence. However, in recent years no reported Saudi apostasy cases have resulted in the death penalty. Women who convert face specific risks. Legally, a Muslim husband can beat and divorce his wife if it’s discovered she has turned from Islam—he can also take away their children and forbid his wife from seeing them. Consequently, Saudi converts, especially women, often keep their conversion secret and follow Jesus in isolation—forced to go through the motions of Muslim beliefs while holding tight to Jesus in their hearts.
Rape and sexual harassment remain a huge problem in Saudi Arabia. Christian women working as housemaids in Saudi homes are particularly vulnerable.
Several expatriate Christians were arrested and briefly detained in a small number of raids on fellowship meetings. Some local believers were arrested and falsely accused of having links with extremist groups.
Three underground house churches were reportedly closed, some after being raided by police.
Christians—both Saudis and foreigners—risk imprisonment, physical abuse and serious threats because of their faith. Several were forced to leave the country because of their faith or faith-related activities.
Christians in the West have had to discover how to worship God in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. But for believers in the Arabian Peninsula, being a secret Christian is nothing new. Read More
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In-depth research for Open Doors' 2020 World Watch List shows that at least eight Christians, largely in Sub-Saharan Africa, die at the hands of persecutors (extremists, family members and state authorities) each day. Read More