Introduction / History
On a cluster of islands off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia live the Bahraini Arabs, the largest people group in Bahrain. They call it Dawlat al Bahran (State of Bahrain). It includes over 30 desert islands in the heart of the Persian Gulf. Bahraini Arabs are related to the two million Arabs spread over the Middle East and North Africa, bound loosely together by a religious and cultural heritage. Arabs trace their ancestry back to Ishmail, the son of Abraham, and his wife's maid, Hagar. For centuries the Arabs lived as Bedouin tribesmen, like Abraham.
During the seventh century, the prophet Mohammed drew many of the Arab tribes together by giving them a common religion, Islam. Most of Bahrain's people are Arabs. They speak the traditional language of Arabic, although English is becoming more popular. People on the main island, also called Bahrain, are more cosmopolitan than other Arabs.
What are their lives like?
Most Bahrainis live in apartments or houses in towns on the northern part of the largest island, Bahrain. Since wood is scarce, they build homes of cement and lime brick. These houses are usually tall with wind towers to catch the breeze. Villagers, on the other hand, usually live in thatched huts.
Even though the islands receive only 7.5 cm (3 inches) of rainfall a year, fresh underground springs along the northern coast of Bahrain provide ample drinking water. Farmers irrigate vegetables and melons from these springs. Families usually have one main meal daily, including many fresh vegetables, lamb, fish, and rice. Bahrainis enjoy a relatively high standard of living due to oil revenues. The government provides free education, medical care and a superior electrical system.
Most households have televisions, radios, and telephones. A causeway links several of the islands to Saudi Arabia. The Bahraini people are more cosmopolitan than other Arabs because Bahrain has been a trade center and port for centuries. Younger Bahrainis wear clothes reflecting Western influence. Bahrain's women have more opportunities and privileges than most Arabic women.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of Bahraini Arabs follow Islam, the religion of their heritage and their culture. The ruling family and many townspeople are Sunni Muslims, while the Northern villagers are Shiites. Because the British ruled Bahrain for over a hundred years prior to 1971, two Anglican churches remain in Bahrain. An estimated 2,300 Christians live in Bahrain today. Mainland Arabs criticize the Bahrainis for not being strict enough about traditional religious values. The women still prefer head coverings and long sleeves, but fewer wear traditional veils. More women are employed, usually at respectable jobs in girl's schools, maternity clinics, and banks.
What are their needs?
More than most Arabs nations, Bahrain has grown increasingly open to Western influence. More than ever before the Bahraini Arabs are listening to new ideas and considering new perspectives on life. Neverless, their culture and Islamic religion are so closely bound together, that it is difficult for them to accept any other world view. They consider the moral values of Western Christians to be paganistic.
Bahrain has capitalized on the petroleum industry since 1932, but oil reserves are estimated to dry up by 2010. Fishing has declined due to pollution in the gulf. Bahrain is diversifying, building industry and becoming a banking center for the middle East. Opportunities for foreign business mean opportunities for Christian business people to share the Gospel.
Television and radio programs are broadcast mostly in Arabic, although some English programs come out of Saudi Arabia. English Bibles, Christian literature, and programs can be used as long as they show sensitivity to the Arab culture. Promiscuity of the western culture has caused the Bahraini to be leery of Western Christians. Opportunities to reach them exist by taking a sensitive approach, stepping carefully through the open doors of a fast-growing business society.
* Pray for open hearts among Arabs, especially the Bahrainis.
* Pray that Bahrain will be used as a gateway for the Gospel into all of Arabia.
* Pray for ministries to begin to focus on the Bahrainis and that a burden will be placed on hearts specifically for them. They cannot hear if the Word is not going forth.
* Pray that God will raise up spiritual leaders among Arabian Christians.
* Pray that Bahraini businessmen will come to know Jesus and be used of God in this rapidly growing banking economy.
* Pray that intimidation will not keep them from receiving Jesus.
* Pray for a strong local church to be established.