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Persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia in the Light of History

Updated on March 11, 2015
Ms Dee profile image

Deidre has a Masters in applied linguistics and translation for her 20 years overseas, then she worked as a certified provider of the MBTI®.

The percentage of Saudi Arabians who are Christians is, officially, zero. Wikipedia states that

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Islamic theocratic monarchy in which Islam is the official religion. Although no law requires citizens or passport holders to be Muslim, almost all citizens are Muslims.

Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the cities of Mecca and Medina, Islam's holiest cities.

There are, though, more than a million Roman Catholics but they are non-citizen expatriates who have gone to Saudi Arabia to work. These expatriate Christians are not to openly practice their faith so there are no official churches there. However, the expatriate Christians in the country have been allowed to hold services in homes or large school buildings inside gated communities. Attacks against Christians and human rights abuses, even against Shia Muslims, have in fact been on the rise since King Abdullah was elected to power in 2005.

Saudi tribesmen
Saudi tribesmen | Source

A bit of history

Christians had started churches in Saudi Arabia after the crucifixion of Jesus. Thought to be one of the earliest church buildings ever discovered by archaeologists (in 1986) is the Jubail Church and it is located in Saudi Arabia. Built around the 4th century, the abandoned church structure is one of the oldest that still remains.

Some Arabian tribes—such as the large powerful Banu Taghlib in northern Arabia and one of the very largest, Banu Tamim, today in the millions—had long ago followed Christianity. The Banu Taghlib had been allowed to keep their Christian faith and their status as Arabs, as a result of their help to Muhammad in his 7th century conquest of Arabia, as long as they paid double the poor tax, the Zaka. During the 7th to 10th century, though, most Christians were either expelled or converted, some forcibly, to Islam.

Ancient holocaust

In southwestern Saudi Arabia, near the border with Yemen is Najran, a provincial capital. Today it is one of the fastest-growing cities in the kingdom.

Historically, it is the site of a Jewish community that was renowned for the garments they manufactured. This also was an important stopping place on the Incense Route during the most prosperous trading period of the first and second centuries B.C., and it was known as Al-Ukhdood. It was there where Christianity first took root in South Arabia.

At the present day site of Al-Ukhdood, south of Najran city, are carvings from those days where also human bones can be seen. The remains of human bones are scattered everywhere—in corridors and on the walls and in the dirt. According to historians, these are the remains of more than 90 thousand men, women and children and the elderly who had died by the burning of a huge fire. The effects of the huge fire is still visible in both charred bones or ash on the walls and ... in a stone groove.

In 524-525, King Dhunoas wanted to deter the Al-Ukhdood people who had believed in God and converted to Christianity. He wanted to bring them back to the Jewish religion. When they refused to give up and leave Christianity, the king was angry and ordered the digging of trenches. It is there, in today what looks like a stone groove, where tens of thousands of Christians were killed and tortured and the effects of that horror can still be seen today in that big groove of a fireplace. The groove remains as a witness to the massacre in the middle of the first millennium AD—an extermination of Christians who refused to return to their former religion.

Later, under the 634–644 reign of the Caliph Umar, the survivors of this Christian community were deported to Mesopotamia on the grounds that non-Muslims were to no longer live in the Arabian Peninsula.

Stop the Torture of Christians in Saudi Arabia

The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism
The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism

A look at the hypocrisy of the Saudi regime, whose moderate facade conceals state-sponsored repression and terrorism. He also raises troubling questions about Wahhabi infiltration of America’s Islamic community.


Present Day Persecution and Attacks on Christians

  • July 2001 - two underground Christian leaders arrested in Jeddah, one tortured into revealing at least six names of other leaders; part of a campaign to eliminate house churches there.
  • January 2002 - three Christians from Ethiopia are suspended with chains and lashed 80 times each with a flexible metal cable in front of more than 1,000 detainees, with no follow-up medical care.
  • September 2004 - a Christian from India is sentenced to 10 months and 300 lashes for selling liquor—no mention of biblical excerpts and documentary videos or movies about the Bible he actually sold. Hung upside down he is kicked in the chest and ribs, whipped with electrical wire on his back and on the soles of his feet.
  • August 2008 - More than a dozen Christians accused of worshipping in their homes are ordered to be deported.
  • August 2008 - a young woman is executed; set afire by her own father, an officer of the Muttawa (morality police), who first cut out her tongue. He is obliged by honor to cleanse his family according to the rules of the rigid Wahhabi doctrine.
  • January 2009 - a 28-year-old Christian man is arrested for describing his conversion on his Web site and criticizing the kingdom’s judiciary.
  • January 2010 - a Filipino Catholic nurse working at Riyadh hospital reports having seen at least 50 Catholic or Christian Filipino migrants accept Islam under duress; being told they must become Muslim to keep their jobs.
  • December 2010 - reports of along with other Islamic countries Saudi Arabia pours millions of dollars into propagating Wahhabism in the Balkans—the version of Islam that calls for attacks on non-Muslims.
  • February 2011 - Saudi Arabia enacts one of the most stringent blogging regulations. Non-citizens in the country are not permitted to write about news and be very careful about religion.

Christians Persecuted in Saudi Arabia @3:50 minutes

The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace
The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace

"Under threat of imprisonment, we were detained and coerced into signing false statements. Would God's deliverance come in time or would we be forgotten and imprisoned in a foreign land?"


Saudi Christian Killed - Testimony of Fatima Al-Mutairi

© 2011 Deidre Shelden


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    • Ms Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Deidre Shelden 

      5 years ago from Texas, USA

      zainabzarrar, Thank you for your comments. Yes, I know my church would welcome Muslims to come see and 'tour' its sanctuary when a service is not being held and we would welcome Muslims to the worship service to either listen and watch, and even sing hymns with us, if so desired. How can we be sure the historical events occurred? There is both archeological evidence and written historical accounts that testify to these events.

    • zainabzarrar profile image


      5 years ago from Sharjah, UAE

      In Saudi and most other Islamic workplaces, workers and all other citizens are recommended to wear veil as to save them public eyes. As you obviously know, all are Muslims there so it would be very eye-catching for a woman not to go out in veil. Also it can bring a sense of hate around her. About the other abuses, how can you be so sure they occurred?? And if they did occur, what about all the killings America does all over the Islamic countries? Please don't be so blind. Again, Saudi is an independent country, so if Christians don't like the rulings, they can go to any other country which suits their pleasure and life style. The same goes to liquor selling, we are talking of a totally Islamic country here.

      Other faiths are not allowed to enter Makkah and medina as its the holiest Islamic place. Would you let Muslims prod and 'tour' your churches?? We do this out of holiness of the place not out of hate and despise for other religions.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      7 years ago

      wow. this sure is something. It makes me really be grateful and remember to Praise God more than I do. I could be over there, instead of here in this country. Where it is safe to practice and express my faith in the only Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Jesus Christ! :) Blessings..I voted up..once again.

    • Ranzi profile image

      Cut The Bullshit 

      7 years ago from All Over

      Reading this made my blood boil! They even persecute their own kind, for even talking to the opposite sex in public.

      Great information.

    • vrajavala profile image


      7 years ago from Port St. Lucie

      One way we can stop the spread of this vicous political, non-religion is to become energy independent of their oil.

    • profile image

      World Viewer 

      7 years ago

      It's a very enlightening article. I could not imagine that in these days of enlightment such persecutions still happen. Anyway, the Bible has many prophecies about persecution in the "last days" Kudos to you Ms. Dee.

    • CreatePerfection profile image


      7 years ago from Beautiful Colorado

      Ms Dee, thank you for this eye-opening article. There is turmoil in every part of the world. It often looks like it is only in other countries, but we in America are in turmoil, too. There are many changes going on in the world right now. I believe it is time for all of us to connect as closely as possible with our Source. It is going to be very important to be as awake as we can be through these changes.

    • Ms Dee profile imageAUTHOR

      Deidre Shelden 

      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      He sure is a deceiver, so blindingly convincing for people to think hate and killing are a virtue. You're right, Betty. We shouldn't be surprised knowing the liar behind all this. Good to get your response :).

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      7 years ago

      When I read about the atrocities perpetrated by one human being against another, I have no doubt who is inspiring and applauding these actions. Only a miserable insecure loser like the devil could be behind such behavior. How do these people not recognize the pure evil of their own actions? They must be so blinded!

    • breakfastpop profile image


      7 years ago

      Once again the world turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to persecution. Voted up useful and awesome.

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 

      7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      I so appreciate your dilligence in reporting what's really going on in the lives of Christians in other parts of the world, including Saudi Arabia. Sometimes, it's overwhelming to imagine being in the shoes of our Christian brothers and sisters in the very moments of such persecution. I thank God persecution and death is short and life with Christ on the other side of that last breath is........endless. God bless you, dear sis!!


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