I know that the public practice of any religion other than Wahabbi Islam is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, and there would be no places of worship. I also know that the morality police raided a a hotel several years ago where Mass was being celebrated, and arrested the priest and the acolytes.

But I am also told that many expats from countries with large Catholic communities such as the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka do gather in private homes for worship. Is this officially tolerated, or would I endanger the hosts or other participants by asking about them?

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    OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) receive a seminar from the Philippine government specifically warning them that they can be jailed for practicing non-Islamic religions in Saudi Arabia. I need to do a bit of fact-checking prior to answering, though. – Tim Post Mar 13 '14 at 6:46

Essentially, there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, and nobody is likely to openly change - indeed:

conversion from Islam to another religion is considered apostasy and punishable by death.

All citizens are considered Muslim by the state (source).

In 2008, the Vatican tried to get a Catholic Church built in Saudi Arabia, and had discussions with the Saudi government, but the result was that it was not permitted.

So that brings us to the Christians (including Catholics) that DO exist in the country. There are considered to be more than a million Roman Catholics in the country, as well as from many others.

From the above link:

Saudi Arabia allows Christians to enter the country as foreign workers for temporary work, but does not allow them to practice their faith openly. Because of that Christians generally only worship in secret within private homes. Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are prohibited. These include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols, and others.

So, to your question about whether this secret practice is allowed or tolerated? Not so much. They have an entire 'government' organisation - The Saudi Arabian Mutaween (Arabic: مطوعين), or Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (i.e., the religious police) which prohibits the practice of any religion other than Islam.

The government also doesn't let clergy of other religions into the country for conducting religious services (naturally this means no Christian baptisms, weddings etc by official clergy legally).

And if they find someone practising in their homes? International Christian Concern (ICC) protested what it reported as the 2001 detention of 11 Christians in Saudi Arabia, for practicing their religion in their homes. In June 2004, ICC reported on what it termed a "pogrom-like" crackdown by Saudi police on Christians after media reports of Koran desecration in Guantanamo Bay.


By the book, Mark Mayo's answer is correct. In reality, there are at least a million or two Catholics in Saudi Arabia and I know for a fact that they are practicing their religion in their homes. Of course this happens with low profile and without making it official.

Things are much different in Saudi Arabia currently, and as long as things are kept inside homes no one will really care. I know this because I am in Saudi Arabia and I work with Catholics and I have asked this question to some of them.

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    I didn't say it wasn't happening - indeed, it does, just that it tends to be in private, and there ARE reported cases of the govt arresting people for doing so, which is what the OP was asking about. Great to hear from someone in Saudi Arabia though! – Mark Mayo Mar 13 '14 at 13:55

The situation is exceedingly dangerous.

There are people in Saudi Arabia on death row, simply because they were seen praying (alone) inside their own property.


Western governments, the media and our own religious leaders and civil rights leaders have been consistently lying to us about the nature of islam. Saudi Arabia is not the only country where non-muslims are persecuted by muslims, but it is one of the worst. I'm not a christian, but even I must recognise that christians are now the most persecuted religious minority on the planet.

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    Not sure that they're the most persecuted on the planet Jim, but otherwise this is a helpful answer. The end seems reaching, any way to soften it up and still make the point you hoped to make? – Tim Post Mar 20 '14 at 16:37
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    Western governments, the media and our own religious leaders and civil rights leaders have been consistently lying to us about the nature of islam. Isn't that generalising somewhat, to put it mildly? – user514 Mar 20 '14 at 18:01

protected by Karlson Nov 5 '14 at 18:44

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