December 3, 2022

Subject: Christianity and Islam Part 20 – Worshipping in the 18th Most Dangerous Place to be Christian

1Timothy 1:17 “To the only God, who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Ed Croteau

We can be proud of America’s World Cup soccer team, who just made the final round of 16 by defeating Iran 1-0 in the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar. But there was a scene in Ecuador’s opening match against the host country that drew greater attention around the world. Ecuador, a team of Christians, celebrated their 2-0 victory over the Muslim team of Qatar with openly public worship to Jesus Christ.

In fact, whenever they score a goal, the team forms a circle on the field, gets down on the knees and raises their hands in praise to Jesus Christ. But this time, their public worship Jesus Christ caught the world’s attention because it was the opening day of the World Cup in Qatar, a Muslim nation listed by the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and Open Doors as one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a Christian.

VOM’s website explains the situation in Qatar: “Most Arab countries severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups. Nearly all Qatari nationals are Sunni Muslim, while 14% of Qatar are Christians, being composed mostly of foreign Christians working inside Qatar.

VOM explains what it means to follow Jesus Christ in Qatar: “The government and the community persecute those who evangelize and those who leave Islam. Converting to Christianity means losing everything, and the small number of Qatari believers must gather covertly for teaching or worship. Sharing the gospel with Muslims is strictly forbidden, so there is great risk to evangelize Qatari citizens. While It is not illegal to own a Bible, Qataris take significant risks if caught owning or distributing one.”

On their website, Open Doors, a US-based Christian ministry dedicated to supporting persecuted Christians around the world, explains life in Qatar: “Qatar is the first Arab nation to ever host the World Cup. The oil-rich country, roughly the size of Connecticut, has spent billions of dollars preparing for the World Cup soccer event, including the creation of eight cutting-edge stadiums in five different cities.

Since winning hosting rights for the World Cup more than a decade ago, Qatar has imported hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and faced intense scrutiny for their treatment. The tiny emirate relies heavily on migrant labor – 1.7 million people in fact – representing 90% of the workforce. The Guardian has reported that at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since the World Cup was awarded.

Deaths are attributed to poor safety conditions, working long hours in the intense heat and unacceptable living quarters. Qatar’s government has downplayed this report, but the numbers don’t lie.”

Open Doors explains that it is the religious persecution that is behind these deaths: “Christians and religious minorities make up a sizable portion of these migrant workers. Christians are confined to worship in a single compound, and Qatari law restricts public worship for non-Islamic faiths. Christian churches are not allowed to evangelize, and indigenous Qataris who have converted to Christianity and other religions find it nearly impossible to practice their faith under the government’s strict interpretation of Sharia Law.

Muslims in Qatar do not have the liberty to change their religion. Apostasy is punishable by death. The penal code highlights other offenses, such as misinterpreting the Quran, offending Islam or insulting the prophets. Christians are not the only religious minorities to face persecution. During the run-up to the World Cup, the Qatari government is accused of promoting the religious cleansing of the Baha’i community.”

Open Doors explains how Qatar’s Islamic culture has created such a danger to anyone converting to Christianity: “The influence of tribalism in Qatari society is extensive, and conversion from Islam to another religion is interpreted as betraying one’s family and the family honor. Christians converts are forced to hide their faith to avoid dire consequences of police monitoring, intimidation, job loss and exclusion from society.

Women and girls are most vulnerable to having their freedoms severely curtailed by their Muslim families, including house arrest without access to outside communication. Both men and women could also lose custody of their children.” While the visiting Ecuador Soccer team worships Christ on a world stage, Qatari Christians are under intense persecution for any public display of Christianity. No one is mentioning this.

In America, we have built into our Constitution the God-given right of freedom to worship. As we continue to watch our American Soccer team compete in Qatar, pray for the Qataris who do not live in freedom.

Ed Croteau is a lay pastor and resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the LS Tribune, on Facebook and his website