Saudi Arabia does not recognize religious freedom and prevents public practice of any religion other than Islam. Furthermore, the country has adopted discriminatory practices against non-Muslims at political, economic, legal and social levels. As testimony to this, a large number of non-Muslims were arrested for allegedly possessing non-Islamic religious books or proselytizing.
The Catholic Church has often urged Saudi Arabia to reduce restrictions imposed on practicing Christianity and allow the construction of churches because Muslims build mosques freely in Western countries and practice their religion there.
Human rights reports indicate freedom of religious practice for Christians or followers of other religions than Islam is not always unquestionable in the Gulf States and varies from one country to another.
Saudi Arabia, for example, applies the most restrictive laws, while in other Gulf States governments tolerate more religious freedom. Almost all Christians in Gulf countries are working migrants. Most of them are Catholics from East Asian countries and Europe, though there are some Egyptian Christians.
Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia is remarkably active and it prevents the practice of Christian rituals and prayers and hinders conversion of Muslims to any other religion. In Saudi Arabia, death is the punishment for apostasy from Islam.
Non-Islamic religious books or pictures are strictly banned and non-Muslims cannot enter Mecca. If found there, non-Muslims are immediately deported, which explains why the majority of non-Muslims are mainly based in Riyadh.
Saudi authorities often raid houses for allegedly holding prayers or proselytizing, or even celebrating religious holidays. The majority of foreigners, therefore, usually celebrate religious occasions and pray inside their embassies, considered safe places to avoid prosecution or raid.