Public non-Muslim worship is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. This is the birthplace of Islam, and home to Islam's two holiest shrines: Mecca and Medina.
The king's official title is “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.”
To worship someone other than Allah is to risk arrest, imprisonment, flogging, deportation, and sometimes torture, according to Open Doors, the ministry that ranks Saudi Arabia as the second (2009) or third (2010) worst country in the world in terms of persecution.
“Christianity is definitely illegal here,” said a Climbing For Christ member who lives in Saudi Arabia, which is ranked among the 50 most persecuted countries on the planet by Open Doors.
“If you worship behind closed doors in a house or apartment, we have read many times that people get arrested, deported, etc. They list this 'crime' in the newspapers along with gambling, stealing, etc.”
Most Christians are expatriates. They are usually allowed to worship privately. But some have been threatened, arrested, and forced into hiding for their faith.
One Climbing For Christ member says they are protected by their company, when it comes to worship, “but it is still highly sensitive and not something discussed. Mostly, things are kept low-key.”
Outreach among Muslims is extremely difficult. Believers from a Muslim background run the risk of honor killing if their family or the community learn about their conversion.
Location: Middle East. Leader: King Abdullah is the leader of this monarchy. Population: Nearly 28.7 million in a country that is slightly more than one-fifth the size of the United States. Primary Religion: Islam. Only 2.2 percent of the population is Christian.
Where in the world?
Saudi Arabia is bordered by the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, as well as Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, UAE, and Yemen. (The World Factbook)
Posted Jan. 12, 2010