QATAR — This year, Qatar will become the first Arab nation to ever host the World Cup. But behind the polished veneers of the sparkling stadiums things in Qatar aren’t as pristine as they seem, according to Christian charity Open Doors.
Since winning hosting rights for the World Cup more than a decade ago they say Qatar has imported hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and faced intense scrutiny for their treatment.
Christian churches are not allowed to evangelize, and the law prohibits non-Muslim religious groups from displaying religious symbols. 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.
The world’s eyes are here in Qatar to see the best football on the planet. The world cup is sport in its purest form. The global community across languages and cultures. It’s a beautiful vision for the beautiful game. And yet this celebration has a dark side. While Qatar has built amazing stadiums beautiful monuments to the beautiful game allegations of human rights abuses have taken centre stage. It’s widely reported that these incredible stadiums caused the deaths of dozens of migrant workers. And even before the world cup life for some Christians in this part of the world was hard. To be sure Qatar has allowed foreign Christians to flourish and many believers there worship without fear. The church in Qatar is a vision of the global body of Christ. Worshiping Jesus in a place where His name has been lifted for more than 1,500 years.
Archbishop Makarios – Orthodox Church Leader in Qatar:
“We are thankful to God to have this opportunity for the thousands of Christians here living and working in Qatar and they have the opportunity to meet with their needs social needs spiritual needs and education needs for the children. So this is first an achievement that we thank our Lord Jesus and of course the generosity of the local authorities His Highness, Emir the father and the government that they have facilitated to have these buildings and to work and function according to the needs of our Christians here in Qatar.”
Bishop Beda – Leader of a church network in Qatar:
“We even pray daily with this nation with all the leaders of this nation especially His Highness Sheik Hamad Al Thani. And we pray for more years to live the Father of the Emir and the mother of the Emir Sheik Hamad Al Thani and Sheikha Moza Al-Missned and all the royal families, we are praying. We love this nation. We love them. We truly love them. And there is always a great opportunity for the Christian community to do our ministry here.”
But that’s not the only reality for Christians in Qatar because while some believers are able to worship Qatari believes are far from free. If a Qatari believes wants to become a Christian they often risk everything. Conversion from Islam is illegal. And following Jesus can cost everything.
Gabr – Church leader in Qatar:
“We need prayer first for the people, the nationals living here. And it’s too difficult when you are financially good it look and search for God. But God is doing miracles on this land. I can witness over years and years. God is visiting in dreams without any missionaries coming to this land. And because of the fear of the people they cannot share the Gospel openly.”
But the World Cup is an opportunity to show our brothers and sisters in Qatar that they’re not alone. Whether they are Qatari of from elsewhere around the world they are part of a global family that’s more beautiful that any game. So this year as the world’s eyes turn to Qatar stand with them. Remind them they are not alone because in Jesus we are one church and one family.
About Open Doors UK
For over 60 years, Open Doors UK has worked in the world’s most oppressive countries, empowering Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. Open Doors equips persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries through programs like Bible & Gospel Development, Women & Children Advancement, and Christian Community Restoration.
- Global News Alliance, Calls for World Cup host Qatar to embrace religious freedom
- Open Doors UK, Official Website