The vast majority of Kuwaiti citizens are Muslims; only a few hundred are Christians. More than two thirds of Kuwait’s population, however, are immigrants. When this community is taken into account, the country’s 750,000 expatriate Christians make up 17 percent of the total population. More than three quarters of the total population are Muslims.
The constitution grants “absolute” freedom of religion, but names Islam as the state religion and states that religious practice must not “conflict with public policy or morals”. Non-Muslims are prohibited from proselytising, and there is strong societal pressure against conversion from Islam. Close-knit families and a strong sense of tribal loyalty prevent many Kuwaitis from breaking away from family and tradition.
Once the site of an ancient trading port between India and Mesopotamia, Kuwait became a bustling trading hub while under the control of the Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, it became an independent sheikhdom under the British before finally gaining independence as a nation in 1961.
In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, and the emir and cabinet fled the country. A US-led bombing campaign forced Iraqi forces to withdraw the following year, but Iraq did not recognise Kuwait’s independence until 1994. Kuwait has since played an important role as a military base for various US-led incursions into the Middle East, including in 2003 when the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was overthrown.
Kuwait has a reasonably good human rights record with few reports of arbitrary arrests or torture. Women were given full political rights in 2005, but the country remains relatively conservative.
- Give thanks for the good relations between different communities in Kuwait, and pray that this will continue.
- Pray for strength and peace for Kuwaiti believers who may face pressure from their families and communities.
- Pray that official policy in Kuwait will move towards greater freedom for religious minorities.