Praying Specifically

The State of the Church in Qatar

The religious landscape of Qatar is changing dramatically. Congregations prayed together in small groups in homes until 2003, when the Qatari government started leasing land outside Doha’s city limits—widely viewed as an effort to modernize the country—for churches to meet. “The move gives Qatar its first church since Islam took root here in the 7th century,” said a Greek Orthodox Church leader. Churches hold services on Fridays since Sunday is a working day in Qatar.

Due to past experiences, church members were afraid to worship in Church City. Expat Christians in Qatar have grown to “breathe, worship, and pray in a place without fear and without disturbance.”

Freedom of religion still has a long way to go, however. There are still some restrictions on worship. No crosses are visible, as the display of non-Muslim religious symbols is forbidden in the country. However, “tensions aren’t aired publicly, partly because most Christians [are] worried that speaking out will result in their deportation.”

A 2009 Gulf News article estimated Qatar’s Christians at 70,000 to 80,000, almost entirely expatriate workers, mostly from India and the Philippines.

The country’s leadership is increasingly under pressure to modernize. Technically the current constitution protects religious freedom. Yet conversion from Islam to Christianity is still considered apostasy and converts face persecution from family and the government. Christians caught sharing their faith with Muslims can face jail time of up to 10 years.

Social unrest in 2011 signifies the local population is open to change. The Doha Debates on April 30, 2012 encouraged Arab governments to protect religious minorities. This is promising in a country ranked for several years in the top 25 worst countries in the world for persecution of Christians.

Workers in Qatar don’t know of more than a handful of Qatari believers in Jesus, and there is no known Church where they can meet and grow in their faith. As a result, Qatari Arabs are considered an unreached people group.

What is a UPG?

An unreached or least-reached people group (UPG) as defined by the Joshua Project is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group. The criterion requires less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian adherents.

By this definition, Qatari Arabs are considered an unreached or a least-reached people group. We need to pray that this will be changed.

Praying for Qataris

Throughout the world, missionary efforts often begin with a “cup of cold water” (Matthew 10:42)—compassionately meeting physical needs in Jesus’ name, and then ultimately sharing the Gospel.

In Qatar, there is no need for a social gospel. Qatar, the richest country in the world, is engaged in its own philanthropic pursuits. However, the lack of apparent physical need doesn’t mean there is not a spiritual need.

We must pray for Qatari seekers. The cost of following Jesus is high. Just as the rich young ruler had to accept that cost in John 3, Qatari people may be putting their finances, their futures, their families, even their lives on the line when they make a decision to follow Jesus.

Access is perhaps the greatest challenge in reaching this UPG. Since Qataris make up only about 15% of the nation’s population, connecting with them isn’t easy. Most expatriates don’t have the finances to live among, and connect with, Qataris.

  • Pray for creative access to Qataris
  • Pray for openness to the message of the Gospel, for divine encounters with other believers, for dreams and visions from God, for forms of media that reach into places where individuals and groups cannot
  • Pray for fear to be abolished in the hearts of Qatari people
  • Pray that Qataris who come to Christ will be free to worship, serve Him and courageously share Him with others.
  • Pray that Qatari believers would be able to withstand tests and persecution from their families and the government

Praying for Foreigners in Qatar

Depending on the source, foreigners constitute as much as 85% of Qatar’s total population. Most foreigners are from nations east of Qatar and are wooed to the country by jobs and high earning potential not available in their home countries.

People are generally most open to changes in belief at critical junctures in their lives, such as a cross-cultural move. They may desire to connect to their roots, or connect to a faith, or connect to others like them.

  • Pray that expats moving in and out of Qatar would be drawn to the message of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that God would strategically send expats with natural means of access (employment opportunities) and hearts for evangelism to connect with Qataris
  • Pray that expat Christians would listen and respond to the Holy Spirit like Ananias in Acts 9, even when that means threats and potential persecution like deportation
  • Pray for fear to be abolished in expats’ lives and that threats would not keep them from sharing their faith
  • Pray for boldness for Christian believers in Qatar