Around 10 percent of Qatar’s residents are citizens, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. The remaining 90 percent belong to the country’s diverse expatriate community. The overall population is 41 percent Muslim, 30 percent Hindu, 18 percent Catholic, and 6 percent Buddhist. Qatar is also home to members of other Christian groups and Baha’is.
Islam is Qatar’s state religion. Under the country’s legal system, which is mainly based on sharia law, blasphemy is illegal and apostasy from Islam is officially punishable by death. The government recognises only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, and public worship and outreach by any non-Muslim group is restricted. New Christian groups must receive official status, which can be difficult to obtain, before they can meet legally. Unregistered groups may be disbanded and their members deported.
Although Qatar’s human history can be traced back to the 5th millennium BC, because of its harsh climate the country was occupied predominantly by nomadic groups for many centuries. In the 1500s, Qatar was ruled by Portugal and then by the Ottoman Turks. The area was later under the authority of the Al-Khalifa Royal Family, from modern-day Bahrain, and then came under British control. Independence from Britain came in 1916, and the Al-Khalifa family were expelled in 1978.
The country continues to be ruled by Emirs, with the right to rule being passed down the Al-Thani family. Unaligned with any global powers, Qatar’s government is a well-known neutral, mediating power in Middle Eastern disputes.
Qatar has a poor record of respecting labour rights, with migrant workers vulnerable to forced labour as well as human trafficking. Employers have often been accused of promising high wages, then underpaying workers and subjecting them to unfair contracts. Despite labour reforms enacted in 2015, expatriate workers are still required to gain their employer’s permission before they can change jobs or leave the country.
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- Pray for Christians in Qatar who may face barriers in their worship and other activities. Pray that God will give them strength and peace.
- Pray for citizens who may face opposition and pressure if they decide to change their faith. Ask God to protect those who become Christians, for whom the cost of discipleship may be high.
- Pray for freedom, justice, and healing for victims of human trafficking or forced labour.