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SAUDI ARABIA

YEMEN

Population: 29 million Majority Religion: Islam (93%) Christian population: 1.4 million Persecution Category: Severe

Population: 26 million Majority Religion: Islam (99%) Christian population: 19,000 Persecution Category: Severe

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to its two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. It is ruled by a monarchy that subscribes to a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Other forms of Islam are restricted and public practising of other religions is forbidden. Blasphemy and apostasy carry a death sentence. Human rights are severely limited – especially the right to freedom of expression and the rights of women.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and is a fertile ground for Islamist terrorism. Several militant groups inspired by Al-Qaeda are very active fighting in the south and the north west, meaning that the country remains very unstable.

Religious freedom does not exist in Saudi Arabia and no church buildings are permitted. The small number of Saudi Christians must practise their faith in extreme secrecy. Although expatriate Christians are officially permitted to worship in private, their meetings may be raided by the mutawa (religious police), and they may be harassed, detained or deported. Christian migrant workers from countries such as Ethiopia, India and the Philippines are often targeted due to the low levels of protest from their governments.

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Middle East

Islam is the state religion of Yemen, and Sharia is the source of all the country’s law. Conversion from Islam is considered apostasy, and is punishable by death. It is illegal to evangelise Muslims. The very small number of Yemeni Christians, who are all converts from Islam, risk severe reprisals for practising their faith, including arrest, torture and extra-judicial killing. Converts also face danger from their families and communities. Most Christians in Yemen are expatriate workers (westerners, south and east Asians, Arabs) or refugees (mainly Ethiopian) who are allowed to meet freely in house churches. However, Aden is the only place where there are official church buildings.

Church in Chains Global Guide  

The Church in Chains Global Guide lists 60 countries where Christians face persecution because of their faith. The Global Guide divides the...

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