The group stages of the World Cup are underway in Qatar amid concerns the nation’s persecution of Christians is worsening.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) released its ‘Persecuted and Forgotten’ report this month which details the state of Christian persecution worldwide and warns that Qatar’s persecution of Christians has got worse.
ACN reported that ‘despite improvements, including removing some anti-Christian references in school textbooks, there has been a sharp rise in reports of intolerance.’
The nation’s hosting of the World Cup has been mired by accusations of human rights abuses, including slave labour and migrant worker deaths.
“Of the seven Middle East countries in this review, Iraq was the only one to see an improvement,” the report said.
There are an estimated 372,000 Christians in Qatar according to Open Doors, a charity for persecuted Christians.
These numbers make up about 13% of the population, with many being migrant workers. They are particularly vulnerable in Qatar, with Amnesty International reporting that they face ‘abusive practices’ by employers who can cancel worker’s residency permits.
They are also often the victims of wage theft.
Qatar’s lack of football history required the building of new stadia to host the World Cup which brought migrant workers to Qatar.
The Guardian reported in February 2021 that 6,500 migrant workers had died since the World Cup had been awarded.
“Behind the statistics lie countless stories of devastated families who have been left without their main breadwinner, struggling to gain compensation and confused about the circumstances of their loved one’s death,” they reported.
Open Doors lists Qatar as 18th on its World Watch Ranking, which monitors the ‘50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.’
“The risks faced by Christians, especially converts from Islam to Christianity, depend on the person’s national origin,” a spokesperson for Open Doors said.
“Native Qatari converts are the most vulnerable to danger, while foreign Christians may be somewhat freer to worship, as long as they do so in ways the government can tolerate.”
Qatar does not recognise conversions away from Islam, causing legal problems including over child custody and property.
“The bottom line is that in Qatar both indigenous and migrant converts risk dis- crimination, harassment and police surveillance for their faith,” they said.
To order a free copy of ACN’s Persecuted and Forgotten? report, visit here.