With all eyes on the World Cup host country of Qatar Christian charities are questioning why the Gulf emirate keeps believers hidden away.
Persecution watchdog Open Doors notes that registered Christian churches are confined to one single overcrowded compound in the capital Doha.
They’re banned from displaying outward Christian signs such as crosses and entry is limited to expatriates and non-Muslims.
Underground churches for Qataris operate illegally because indigenous believers are banned from the compound.
They face discrimination, harassment and police monitoring for converting to the Christian faith.
The emirate ranks 18th on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst nations for the persecution of Christians.
The charity says religious expression is a human right and it’s time for Qatar to open up.
Middle East Christianity expert Dr. Harry Hagopian believes the World Cup is a move forward for the host nation.
He told Premier Christian News the Qataris are trying to do the best they can which isn’t always easy.
Open Doors is urging Christians to pray “that God will use the global event to prompt the emirate’s rulers to allow Qatari believers greater freedoms”.
It’s also calling for prayer for competing nations who are on its World Watch List.
They include Islamic states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, and Qatar where believers can be jailed for teaching the Bible, telling others about Christianity or praying to Jesus.
Muslim converts are constantly targeted in those countries.
World Cup finalists Mexico and Cameroon are also on the World Watch List despite being Christian majority nations.
Drug cartels are the persecutors in Mexico as are the Muslim minority in Cameroon.
Christian Today reports the charity has a wall chart that sets out when these countries compete.
It urges Christians around the world to pray for them while their teams play.