Saudi Arabia Facts

Score: 79/ 100
Region: Middle East
Persecution Type: Islamic oppression
Persecution Level: Very High
Population: 34,141,000
Christians: 1,419,000
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Absolute monarchy
Leader: King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Profile of Persecution

Violence 14%
Church Life 99%
National Life 93%
Community Life 85%
Family Life 90%
Private Life 91%

An all-consuming interpretation of Islam

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.

How Christians are suffering

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.

Population statistic: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed April 2019).
Number of Christians statistic is an Open Doors estimate.


Pray for Saudi Arabia

  • Pray for isolated believers all over Saudi Arabia, who lack fellowship and community. Pray for those who deal with pressure from society and family to recant their faith or who live in fear their faith will be discovered.
  • Pray that Christian Saudis will find ways to share the truth with their own family members, and pray for the family members, that they will search for the truth and not respond in anger.
  • It is forbidden to openly practice any religion besides Wahhabism—a purist and strict interpretation of Islam. Conversion is punishable by death. Please pray that Muslim Saudis will come to know Jesus.
  • Pray that more and more Saudi Arabians would be exposed to Jesus on the internet and social media.

Stories from Saudi Arabia

May 19, 2020

Don’t waste COVID-19: Lessons from believers in the Arabian Peninsula

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


March 6, 2020

A ‘living death’: How Christian women experience persecution

A new 2020 Open Doors in-depth report focusing on gendered persecution surfaces some disturbing realities for Christian women and girls in the top 50 countries where women are highly persecuted for their decision to follow Jesus. Read More


January 15, 2020

Every day, 8 Christians killed for their decision to follow Jesus

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


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