Once a poor fishing nation, Qatar has developed into a prosperous and modern country thanks to the exploitation of oil and gas fields since the 1940s. In 2012, Qatar had the world’s highest GDP growth rate. On the other hand, there still remains harrowing poverty in the country among some migrant communities, like the Nepalese. From 2009 to 2011, amidst the global economic crisis, Qatar reached another economic climax, thanks to the abundance of natural resources. Qatar has the world’s third largest natural gas reserves. The government is encouraging diversification of the economy and the development of a more knowledge-based society.
The large number of foreign workers also plays an important role in the progress of Qatar. The population is composed almost entirely of migrant laborers: less than 300,000 of its 1.9 million total residents are Qatari nationals – the world’s highest ratio of migrants versus citizens, and the highest population growth rate. Expats (including Westerners) are generally perceived and treated by Qataris as slaves. Working conditions for these migrants can be inhumane and dangerous; they face underpayment, lack of proper living conditions unsanitary, overcrowded labor camps), domestic violence and sexual abuse. It is not uncommon for them to die in the workplace. Forced labor and human trafficking are major problems.
Although Qatar has been predominantly Muslim for centuries, there was a time that Christianity was popular in this desert emirate. During the first centuries AD, Qatar housed several churches and monasteries. Within a few centuries after Islam’s arrival, Christianity had disappeared. Qatar adopted Islam as its official religion in the seventh century. Over the past 100 years, expats – among them Christians – have entered the country, especially after the discovery of oil. Public worship of religions other than Islam was prohibited until recently.
- For migrant workers, many of them Christians from Africa who live in poverty, to keep the faith and be able to worship safely in their homes
- That the strict government will relax their restrictions on religious freedom for all faiths
- That Qatar will not continue to fund Islamic terrorism in the Middle East