Let Me Share What Life Is Like for a Christian in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian women (Photo: © Reuters)
The following letter was written by a teacher in Saudi Arabia to radio host Chris DeBello of the show Issues and Answers after an interview with Clarion Project Paula Kweskin, producer of Clarion’s upcoming film Faithkeepers.
Faithkeepers is about the violent persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. The film features exclusive footage and testimonials of Christians, Baha’i, Yazidis, Jews, and other minority refugees, and a historical context of the persecution in the region.
Let me share a little bit about what life is like for Christians in Saudi Arabia:
It took me 18 months to finally find and be accepted to the church that worships at the British Embassy. One can’t just walk into a church here or gather freely to worship. There is not only the threat of the kingdom shutting you down, but terrorist and sympathizers who would like nothing more than to stop you.
Even to go to church and worship I have to give a “code” to the Saudi guards and we speak in code in general. My code is “T09”, a bible is called “a book”, service is called “meetings”, and if we go to the pastor’s home we call it “Shiloh.”
I finally received a bible because a friend of a friend took the risk of bringing it back with him from Dubai, UAE (a more tolerant Muslim country).
Our school does not allow us to admit we are Christians to the girls. To be honest I break this rule all the time. In the beginning when they would ask if I was Muslim I would simply say no, and change the subject.
But it started to feel like I was denying Christ. My answer now is that “I am a Christian, and we need to get back to our lesson plan.”
We are never permitted to say “Merry Christmas”, “God Bless You”, Happy Easter, etc.....We are also not permitted to show our faith (clothing, cross necklaces, etc...)
Most Christian websites are blocked, but there are ways to get around that. But I still can’t get anything Billy Graham!
These are just a few of the challenges I can think of at the moment.
Now let me tell you about my girls:
Attending university is the only freedom they have, and the only way to really learn anything outside of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
They are so kind and so sweet and so curious!
At their ages (18-20), they should have some critical thinking skills, but they honestly possess none. They are taught from the time they are little that men will take care of them and their only role to concern themselves with is preserving themselves and finding a good husband (which really father or brother does for them.)
Every class I do a few things to inspire them: write a short an inspiring quote from a famous person on the board; have them watch an educational TED video (that won’t get me into too much trouble); one assignment is always about another country outside of the Middle East, at the end of each session we Google and learn about one Saudi woman who has achieved great things (they do exist ... the kingdom just doesn’t broadcast it very much. And these women had the privilege of having fathers educated in the West who know the value of an education, even for their daughters!), and show them lots of love (even tough love).
So as you can see, life here can be challenging, but it has been rewarding. I feel like God has protected me in so many ways, because I’ve broken so many rules that should have gotten me disciplined or deported (my favorite is my purple abaya.)
I know my time here is finished, but it does break my heart to leave. The only way some from this region can be protected (my church) or saved (my girls) are through our prayers. So please, I plead, please share my story and ask for prayers.