Bahrain congregates together as a group of 35 islands along the Persian gulf about 23 kilometres (15 miles) north of Saudi Arabia. It’s main island, Bahrain Island is 48km long and 16 km wide. It is mostly barren rock and sand.
Some History of Bahrain
Like many other States, Bahrain has been occupied by various political powers including the Portuguese, Iran and as a British protectorate. It became independent as a nation state in 1971. It remained dependant on pearl and shrimp fishing until the discovery of oil in 1932. During this time Bahrain used its income to develop the state. Its education has one of the highest standards in the region and has claimed the highest literacy level in the Arab world. It has developed several further education institutions with the help of expatriate skills and the increasing number of Bahrainis that return from the west with advanced degrees. Since oil levels have reduced over the past 20 years it has now become a significant Gulf Banking centre.
Freedom in Bahrain
The population of over 700.000 is about 70% Bahraini and other Arabs constitute about 10%. These would include Palestinian, Egyptian and Saudi Arabs. The rest are from Iran and Asia with a minority of Europeans. The population is 90% Muslim, the only non-Muslims would be from the expatriate community. It has one of the largest Arab Christian community in the Gulf and permits freedom of worship to the expatriate churches.
The government is officially opposed to mission work but is not very hostile towards Christianity. There is opportunity for Arab Christians to be a witness to Jesus in their workplaces and there are active house groups who have freedom to meet together.
Effective opportunities for Christian witness are Radio and literature. The International Bookfair offers opportunities to distribute Bibles and other Christian literature in Bahrain. There has been a very encouraging response to the scriptures that have been made available.
Prayer Guide for Bahrain
* Pray for the work of Christian literature to a state that prides itself on it’s literacy level. Pray for Hunger for the word of God.
* Pray for Arab Christians to be bold in their witness of Jesus. That their lives would reflect a Christlikeness to the people they live amongst.
* Pray for the work of Radio as it broadcasts from the Seychelles and for the finances to continue this effective work.
* Pray too, for other media tools such as Video Television and now Internet in making gospel available to the young and old alike.
Background on Bahrain (World Factbook)
Bahrain’s small size and central location among Persian Gulf countries require it to play a delicate balancing act in foreign affairs among its larger neighbors. Facing declining oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining and has transformed itself into an international banking center. Sheikh HAMAD bin Isa Al Khalifa, who came to power in 1999, has pushed economic and political reforms and has worked to improve relations with the Shi’a community. In February 2001, Bahraini voters approved a referendum on the National Action Charter – the centerpiece of Sheikh HAMAD’s political liberalization program. Shia political societies participated in 2006 parliamentary and municipal elections. Al Wifaq, the largest Shia political society, won the largest number of seats in the elected chamber of the legislature. However, Shia discontent has resurfaced in recent years with street demonstrations and occasional low-level violence.
In early 2011, Bahrain’s fractious opposition sought to ride a rising tide of popular Arab protests to petition for the redress of popular grievances. In mid-February, on the tenth anniversary marking the King’s initiation of his democratic reform initiative, a vanguard of hardline activists – who rejected the legitimacy of the Al Khalifa regime and have sometimes instigated low-level violence – organized demonstrations in Shia neighborhoods demanding a new constitution, release of hundreds of Shia prisoners, and an end to discriminations in all sectors of society. Cycles of protestor deaths, funerals, and clashes with security forces ensued, escalating domestic tensions and leading Wifaq legislators to formally resign from the national legislature in protest in late-March 2011. Nearly a month of mostly peaceful opposition demonstrations followed before hardline elements within the Shia opposition undertook new provocative protests. The government’s offers of modest political and economic concessions went and the king’s “national dialogue” with the opposition – led by his son, the reform-minded Crown Prince – also languished in disagreements over procedure and preconditions. In mid-March 2011, with the backing of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) capitals – especially Riyadh and Abu Dhabi – King HAMAD put an end to the mass public gatherings and increasingly disruptive demonstrations by declaring a state of emergency and authorizing the military to take all measures to “protect the safety of the country and its citizens.” Manama also welcomed a contingent of mostly Saudi and Emirati forces as part of a GCC deployment intended to help Bahraini security forces maintain order. By mid-April security forces had largely relegated demonstrations to outlying Shia neighborhoods and villages, and negotiations between the government and opposition reached a stalemate. Manama exacted retribution against opposition groups and their supporters through mass firings, arrests, and sectarian incitement. Despite this progress, street protests have grown increasingly violent since the beginning of 2012.
Economy of Bahrain
With its highly developed communication and transport facilities, Bahrain is home to numerous multinational firms with business in the Gulf. Petroleum production and refining account for over 60% of Bahrain’s export receipts, over 70% of government revenues, and 11% of GDP (exclusive of allied industries), underpinning Bahrain’s strong economic growth in recent years. Other major segments of Bahrain’s economy are the financial and construction sectors. Bahrain is actively pursuing the diversification and privatization of its economy to reduce the country’s dependence on oil.
Statistics on Bahrain
note: includes 235,108 non-nationals (July 20012 est.) World rank #157
Life Expectancy at Birth: 78.29 years. World rank #53
Ethnic groups: Bahraini 62.4%, non-Bahraini 37.6%
Religions: Muslim (Shi’a and Sunni) 81.2%, Christian 9%, other 9.8%
Languages: Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu
Literacy: 94.6% — Male: 96.1%, Female: 91.6%
School life expectancy: 14 years
Video: Poverty in Bahrain + differences between Shia and Sunni
This is a CNN documentary, very good.