Saudi Arabia
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
October 3-4
Asia


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 2,240,000 sq.km. The main portion of the Arabian Peninsula; almost entirely desert but containing 25% of the world's known oil reserves.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 21,606,691 +3.43% 10 per sq. km.
2010 28,778,495 +2.80% 13 per sq. km.
2025 39,964,965 +1.87% 18 per sq. km.

Capital Riyadh 3.35 mill. Other major cities: Jiddah 2.1m; Mecca 920,000. Urbanites 80%.

PEOPLES

With the presence of such a large number of foreigners, all figures are estimates.

Arab 83.8%

Saudi Arab 72.9%.

Foreign Arab 10.9%. Egyptian 1.2m; Yemeni 500,000; Palestinian 300,000; Jordanian 200,000.

Asian 14.2%. Indian 1m; Pakistani 800,000; Filipino 600,000; Bangladeshi 200,000, Iranian 150,000; Sri Lankan 150,000.

African 1.4%. Nigerian, Sudanese, Somali.

Other 0.6%. American, British, French, Italian.

Literacy 62.8%. Official language Arabic. All languages 5.

ECONOMY

Enormous oil wealth produces two-thirds of government revenue and is used to improve services and communications, develop industries and finance Islamic expansion around the world. The combined effects of eighteen consecutive years of budget deficits, spectacular corruption of the large royal family and the heavy cost of the Gulf War (at least US$50 billion) have enforced a measure of austerity since 1990. A major economic overhaul is overdue. HDI 0.740; 78th/174. Income/person $7,150 (22.7% of USA).

POLITICS

Absolute monarchy and a semi-feudal state with administration, diplomacy and commerce tightly controlled by the large royal family. Since the Gulf War there has been pressure from democrats to liberalize the country and from hard-line Islamists to exert more control, resulting in some changes.

RELIGION

An Islamic state committed to the role of the custodian of Islam and its holiest sites. The majority of Saudis are Wahhabi Sunnis. Religions other than Islam are prohibited even for expatriate Christian gatherings. All non-Muslim figures are estimates. Persecution index 1st in world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Muslim 92.83 20,057,491 +3.2%
Christian 4.54 980,944 +4.3%
non-Religious/other 1.40 302,494 +8.5%
Hindu 0.60 129,640 +28.8%
Buddhist/Chinese 0.42 90,748 +2.9%
Sikh 0.19 41,053 +5.8%
Baha'i 0.02 4,321 +3.4%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 21 0.67 144 +5.9%
Independent 30 0.54 117 +7.9%
Anglican 1 0.01 2 +0.0%
Catholic 3 1.83 395 +1.9%
Orthodox 4 0.55 119 +8.3%
Marginal 4 0.14 30 +8.5%
Unaffiliated   0.80 173 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic [3] C   276,224 395,000
Protestant [20] P 128 25,600 128,000
Orthodox [4] O   83,217 119,000
Independent [30] I   73,125 117,000
Marginal groups [4] M   18,750 30,000
Other denoms [2]     8,200 18,000
Total Christians [63]     485,116 807,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 0.9 188 +6.8%
Pentecostal & Charismatic 0.4 88 +7.1%

Challenges for Prayer

1 Saudi Arabia once had a large Christian population. They were expelled when Islam gained control 1,300 years ago. It is now one of the least evangelized nations on earth. No Christian workers are permitted and all Christian "propaganda" banned. No Christian is permitted to set foot in Islam's holiest city, Mecca. Pray that one day soon this land may have many Christians praising the Lamb that was slain.

2 The world's 1.2 billion Muslims are required to pray towards Mecca five times daily. Every year over two million make the Hajj or pilgrimage to the city. This is the culmination of many people's religious lives. Pray that many may have their eyes opened to see the emptiness and bondage under which they live, and embrace the freedom that is in Christ. Praise God that a small but growing number are doing just that – even in Saudi Arabia!

3 Saudi Arabia probably has the world's worst record on religious freedom and human rights. This has been achieved through a corrupt judicial system, arrogant religious police (mutawwa), and the corroboration of the government. This woeful record is regularly condemned by both Christian and secular international bodies promoting equality and freedom of conscience. Pray for an easing of the tight control, and for freedom of religious expression.

4 Saudi society is straining at the seams. The ailing and aged rulers find it increasingly difficult to walk the tightrope between those pushing for liberalization and those demanding stricter Islamization. The economy is sagging and there is an increasingly marked gap between rich and poor. Saudi women have an average of seven children, but this young generation finds few employment opportunities. The government's goal of the Saudi-ization of the economy has resulted in the expulsion of millions of illegal workers and Saudis taking up jobs that they previously felt were beneath them. Pray that these tensions might cause many to seek the truth and peace found only in Christ.

5 A massive Islamic missionary effort is coordinated by the Muslim World League in Mecca. Billions of dollars are spent every year to propagate Islam around the world – aid to countries considered sympathetic, building mosques, sending missionaries, literature, radio, etc. The Saudi government denies Christians the liberty to share their faith, yet demands this liberty for Muslims living elsewhere. Some of the world's largest printing presses are in Saudi and churn out 28 million Qur'ans annually for worldwide distribution.

6 Although Saudi Arabia signed the U.N. Charter, which guarantees freedom of religion, Saudis who confess Christ face the death penalty if discovered. Still, a growing and substantial number are secretly seeking and finding Him. All converts discovered in the past have been executed. Pray for the preservation and multiplication of believers, and the legalization of Christianity for Saudis. Pray that Saudi believers may be able to meet together in safety and have access to God's Word.

7 Life is difficult for expatriates. Often pressured to leave home to make money here, they lose their personal and religious freedom. Many of these foreigners have little access to the gospel, although there are sizeable numbers of Christians amongst them. Pray for a witness to flourish amongst these groups, even as the authorities seek to replace Christian expatriates with Muslims from the same country.

8 Christian expatriates live under strict surveillance. Secret gatherings are hunted down with diligence and leaders sometimes subjected to humiliating beatings, imprisonment, expulsion, and even execution. This is particularly so for Asian Christians who have often been the most effective witnesses and whose governments have the least international clout. There are perhaps only 50,000 practising believers, although many more would join them were the risks not so great. Pray for encouragement and strength for the believing community. There are few opportunities to meaningfully interact with Saudis, and very few expatriates speak Arabic. Pray that other Arabs might gain a burden to reach Saudis.

9 Witnessing by other means:

a) Saudis abroad. Students, businessmen and tourists visit the West, where they can be reached. Many prefer to travel during the summer months and the month of fasting!

b) Christian radio. Over 146 hours of broadcasting weekly in Arabic are available through FEBA, High Adventure, TWR, IBRA and HCJB(WRMF). Many listen secretly and there are isolated radio converts in some regions.

c) Christian literature and video cassettes. These are banned, and are therefore in great demand. Many copies of the Scriptures and the JESUS video are in surreptitious circulation.

d) Satellite television. Almost 99.9% of homes have televisions and over 50% have satellite dishes – an indication of hunger for what the outside world offers. In such an environment, Christian television such as SAT-7, The Bible Channel and CBN can be used tremendously to bring Saudis to Jesus.

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