Bahrain, Arabian Peninsula
Political Leader: King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa
Religions: Islam 82.3%, Christianity 10.4%, Hinduism 6.3%, Other 1%
Persecution Ranking: 45
Number of Terrorist Groups: 1
Acts of Terrorism: 18; Casualties: 13
Percent of Corruption: 43%
% of People in Poverty: Not Ranked
Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a borderless island country in the Persian Gulf and is the smallest Arab state. Saudi Arabia lies to the west and is connected to Bahrain by the King Fahd Causeway (officially opened on November 25, 1986), and Qatar is to the south across the Gulf of Bahrain. The Qatar–Bahrain Friendship Bridge being planned will link Bahrain to Qatar as the longest fixed link in the world. Bahrain is a generally flat and arid archipelago.
The government of Bahrain actively monitored terrorist suspects, but domestic legal constraints at times hampered its ability to detain and prosecute suspects, according to Country Reports on Terrorism 2007. Using the new 2006 counterterrorism law, security forces monitored the travels and activities of a Bahraini citizen and arrested him on August 2007. His arrest and the subsequent investigation led to the arrest of a number of other men. Prosecutors charged each with membership in a terrorist organization, undergoing terrorist training, facilitating the travel of others abroad to receive terrorist training, and financing terrorism. Their trial began on October 23, 2007 and had not concluded at year’s end.
Meanwhile, the founder of a group blamed for a ferry bombing in the Philippines that killed 116 people four years ago was arrested in Bahrain on August 29, 2008 and deported to the Philippines, Arab News (Saudi Arabia) reported. Ruben Pestano Lavilla Jr., also known as Sheik Omar Lavilla, was deported to Manila, more than a month after he was arrested. Fernando Mesa, executive director of the Philippine government’s Anti-terrorism Council, said the 35-year-old Lavilla was wanted for the country’s worst militant attack, the bombing of a ferry near Manila Bay in 2004.
Muslims make up 82.3% of Bahrain’s population, while Christians comprise only about 10.4%. The constitution states that Islam is the official religion and that Shari’a law is a principal source for legislation. The constitution, though, provides for freedom of conscience, the inviolability of worship, and the freedom to perform religious rites and hold religious parades and meetings, but the government has placed some limitations on the exercise of this right.
Challenges for Christians:
Bahrain is ranked No. 45 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2008 World Watch List.
- Pray for the government of Bahrain to be steadfast in combating terrorism and its financing. Pray for Bahrain to continue to actively monitor terrorist suspects.
- Islam is the official religion and the main division is between the Sunni Muslims, who are the ruling minority, and the majority of the population, who are much poorer Shi’a Muslims. Pray for Bahrain to abolish Shari’a law.
- The smallest and most densely populated Arab state, Bahrain has more social freedoms than in other Arab states – alcohol is freely available and women don’t have to wear the veil. Pray that there would be even more political and religious freedom in Bahrain.
- Bahrain has the largest Arab Christian community in the Gulf states―most of whom are from other countries. No evangelism to Muslims is allowed. Pray that Christians would be able to have the courage to sensitively share their faith with others.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Open Doors