Qatar has been in the spotlight in recent weeks and will continue to be so, especially with the FIFA World Cup in November-December. “We expect a strong influence of the Holy Spirit during the games,” says a representative of the Qatari Church. “Keep us in your prayers!”
During the corona pandemic, the Qatari government closed all 157 buildings where it had promised to hold religious services. After the pandemic, the government changed the rules so that only 61 buildings were allowed to reopen their doors and continue congregational activities.
In Qatar, congregations serve migrant workers and foreigners living in the country, because only foreigners are allowed to gather in the church building. The local Qatari followers of Jesus are not allowed to attend services and are not allowed to have their own church premises. There are very few Christians in the country and they have no church connection.
A thousand bucks place
The local representative of the elders of the Protestant Church considers that the most important prayer topic is that God would touch the Qatar.
“We are already seeing the influence of the Holy Spirit. God appears to people in their dreams. God works miracles and heals the Qataris.” However, he sees the wealth of the Qataris as an obstacle to God’s work.
“If life is economically successful, then God is not needed.”
There are very few local Christians in Qatar. “Pray for those who share their faith with others. Please pray that the fear will disappear and that people will dare to speak openly,” asks one Christian.
Although foreign churches do not reach the Qataris, they do reach their own.
“Pray for us to reach the more than two million foreigners living in Qatar from more than 60 countries. During the World Cup, we have a seat for a thousand bucks. May the name of our Lord prevail at this time”, states the representative of the elders.
Praying to the Lord for victorious games
Bishop Beda S. Robles is the President of the Evangelical Churches Alliance in Qatar (ECAQ). ECAQ is an international network of more than 90 member churches, most of which are Filipinos, but there are also Africans, Indians and Nepalese. ECAQ is a recognized religious organization that, according to their website, “has the ability to build churches, hold services within state borders and respect state restrictions.”
The bishop thinks the FIFA World Cup is a great opportunity for Qatar. “We Christians pray for a victorious event. Many of us work as volunteers at the event. We are praying for Qatar and the Games and hope that Christians around the world will join us in prayer. Remember the ruler of this country in your prayers, as well as ministers and government officials.”
Bishop Robles recalls the long tradition of praying for the people and government of his country. “God already promises in the Old Testament how His people will also be part of the blessing of the nations,” he says.
The bishop also asks for prayers for the construction of the ECAQ church building. The building permit had already been obtained, but the government needed the land back. “We hope to start soon and we hope you will support our construction project. Let’s pray together. Although we have not met each other, we are one in Spirit.”
The Qatari Christians Dilemma
One Christian woman thinks that Qataris fear that their culture will be challenged during the World Cup: “There is a tension between Qatar’s strict culture and the outside world. I hope and pray that this fear will disappear and that the guests coming to the games will have a positive impact. We hope for permanent changes. We have already seen a shift towards social justice.”
During major events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, people often come to the host country to share the gospel and they are also expected to come to Qatar. Expatriate churches in Qatar hope that this will not have a negative impact on the treatment of local congregations or Christians. For this reason, they do not cooperate with the evangelists who come to the country.
“Some churches are afraid that they will have to be responsible if the Christians who came to the country freely share the gospel and thus violate the laws of Qatar,” says Daniel, Open Doors’ partner in the Arabian Peninsula.
Daniel hopes that the World Cup will have a positive impact on Qatar.
“Organizing the World Cup is a huge risk for the country, because such an event puts the country under the microscope. Qatar receives criticism that opens up debate in local communities. Individuals and groups argue over what to keep and what to change because the world is crying out for change. I believe that the event will generate discussion for at least the rest of the year.”