Qatar, a country known for its wealth and monarchy, has been in the spotlight in the past months as the official host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, taking place from the 20th of November to the 18th of December. Preparations took place as new bridges, new roads, and a lot of investment in the infrastructure was made in anticipation of the big event. According to the 2022 World Watch List, Qatar rose 11 spots on the list, making it the 18th most dangerous country to be a Christian. Despite the intensity faced by believers, how are Christians in Qatar responding to this mega-event?
“We’re expecting a big move of the Holy Spirit during the World Cup. Please pray for us,” says a very optimistic elder of one of the protestant churches. The church forms one of the 61 villas in the country where church services are allowed.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, 157 villas had to close their doors. After the pandemic, only 61 were allowed to re-open for church meetings because the government had changed some regulations for gatherings in villas.
Only foreigners in Qatar have permission to have their own churches, with Qatari Christians not allowed by the authorities to have their own church buildings or join those services. The number of Qatari believers in the country is very small, and generally isolated.
“Our main focus in our prayers is that God will touch the nationals here,” the elder says in a quiet room. “We already see the move of the Holy Spirit in Qatar. God is visiting people in their dreams. God is doing miracles. God is doing healings among the Qatari people.”
Although the expat churches cannot reach out to Qataris, they do to their own people. “Pray that we will be able to reach the over two million foreigners from over 60 nations who are living in Qatar. I believe that we have a golden opportunity during the World Cup. I hope that the name of the Lord will be magnified during the event,” the elder says. “Please pray for those who share their faith with people. Pray that fear will vanish and that people will speak openly. We believe that more miracles will happen.”
Countries such as Iran, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Morocco, and Cameroon will also be competing in the world tournament. They also join Qatar on the World Watch List as part of the top 50 countries where Christians pay the price for their faith in Christ.
Another church leader we spoke to is Bishop Beda S. Robles, chairman of the Evangelical Churches Alliance Qatar (ECAQ). He says: “It will be very good for Qatar, a big opportunity for this nation. We, as Christians, are praying that this will be a victorious event. Many of us will be serving as volunteers at the event. We pray for Qatar, we pray for the World Cup, and we hope that Christians around the world will stand with us in prayer too. Pray for the Emir, government officials, and the ministers.”
During big events like the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, international ministry teams usually do evangelism among the crowds. Such teams are expected in Qatar too. The existing expat churches hope that their coming won’t have a negative impact on the registered churches and on how Christians in the country are seen and treated. For that reason, the local churches are not working with those teams.
Countries that host tournaments like these are also automatically placed under a magnifying glass. Therefore, this puts Qatar in the seat of criticism which usually leads to discussions in the local communities, where individuals and groups rethink values to keep and change. Pray that God will bring changes on behalf of the Church in Qatar. That Qatar will grow towards respect for diversity, and the country will be a place where locals and foreigners can live like Christ without fear of repercussions.
With all that being said, will you be attending the FIFA World Cup tournament or watching it on TV? If so, we would like to challenge you that as you walk around Qatar to say a prayer on behalf of all believers in the country, ex-pat Christians and Qatari Christians. Speak life, growth and unity over the Church and proclaim freedom for our brothers and sisters and the Year of the Lord’s favour! If you’re watching it, then we challenge you to pray for the countries taking part in the tournament that we mentioned are also on the World Watch List. Making sure that even though they are persecuted, they are never alone.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” – Isaiah 61:1-2