Qatar (MNN) — The U.S. soccer team defeated Iran 1-0 on Tuesday, advancing to the knockout stage of the World Cup. But a shadow hangs over the games, held in the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar.

Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says the economy of Qatar is powered by immigrant workers. “Many come from Asia and Africa. And many of those are Christians. Most of the talk about the World Cup as it relates to human rights has been about the workers who were hired to build the stadiums, hotels, roads, and everything needed to put on the Cup. And the working conditions were very difficult and bad for those people.”

Human rights advocates have also criticized Qatar for its harsh treatment of women and LGBT people. Women in Qatar cannot leave the house without a male escort. To marry, work in a government job, or access healthcare, they first need male permission. LGBT people have often been arrested without cause and assaulted by police.

Religious persecution

Nettleton says Christians have a similar target on their backs.  “Qatari citizens are predominantly Sunni Muslim. They are expected to remain Sunni Muslim until they die. Outreach to them is closely watched and is forbidden. Anyone who is a Qatari Christian must be very secretive about that.”

“There are places where foreign Christians can worship in Qatar. But they cannot evangelize.”

The danger comes from the government but also from their own families. Ask God to give them boldness as they share Jesus’ story.

Pray also that they have access to Bibles, whether in paper or digital form. Nettleton says, “The Voice of the Martyrs is also working with Qatari Christians, especially converts who face persecution, maybe being kicked out of their families. So you can respond practically through ministries like The Voice of the Martyrs.”


The header photo shows a scene from the World Cup in Qatar before a match between Korea and Uraguay. (Photo courtesy of / Korean Culture and Information Service [Photographer name], CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)