SANAA, Feb. 13 (YPA) – A report by the American website Insider revealed a new direction by Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman regarding Christians in the Kingdom.
The American website report said that despite the problems facing a million and a half Christians in Saudi Arabia in officially practicing their religious rites, there are close expectations that the first church will be allowed to be built inside the kingdom.
The site stated that despite what Christians in the Kingdom faced during their worship of arrest, imprisonment and deportation for some of them, voices related to the issue indicate that great changes will take place in the coming days.
According to the site, these changes will take matters into the open, with the religious rituals of Christians coming out.
The report referred to an incident that occurred in 2019, when 25 American Christians gathered at the base of Jabal al-Lawz, northwest of the kingdom, and their leader, Evangelical preacher Joel Richardson, took out the Bible for reading, and in the evening the preacher was surprised when his phone rang, the message from the State Department said to him: Be careful”.
In 2014, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice deported 12 Ethiopian Christians who were arrested while worshiping in Dammam and invaded a house after learning that it was being used to hold church services, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to the report, despite the reforms of the Crown Prince of the Kingdom, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, since he took office in 2017, the progress in religious freedom has been slow.
The report quoted a Christian who lived there throughout her adult life as saying: “There are no churches. We choose to keep our worship hidden in respect of culture and religion.”
In return, the US government has repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia to end the ban on churches, without success.
“I went there and talked to the top leaders about Fatah,” said Nina Shea, the US Commissioner for Global Religious Freedom. A church for those people and they always said: Saudi Arabia is different and it is the land of the Two Holy Mosques, and the whole country is a holy land in the literal sense, and for this it is not possible to build a church on it.
On the other hand, a group of evangelicals tried to change things, and in October of 2018, the prominent evangelist Joel Rosenberg accepted an invitation from the prince to visit Riyadh.
Rosenberg was attended by Reverend Johnny Moore, a religious advisor to President Donald Trump, and a group of other evangelicals.
According to the report, it was the first time that a group of American evangelicals had visited the Saudi royal court in 300 years.
Rosenberg later told Fox News that Mohammed bin Salman discussed almost all of the controversial issues during his meeting with them.
However, this did not prevent Rosenberg from returning to Saudi Arabia again in 2019, where they visited the Kingdom again and then returned with evidence that a change was imminent.
The delegation was briefed on the historical presence of churches in the Arabian Peninsula, as Moore explained to the American website: “It is very prominent, especially the open dialogue about the archaeological evidence of the existence of churches in the time of the Prophet.”
For his part, Prince Abdullah bin Khalid Al Saud, the academic, told the American website: “The matter is inevitable, especially inside the diplomatic quarter in Riyadh or Neom.”
This confirms that although the efforts made to build a church in Saudi Arabia appeared to be fruitless, change will inevitably come.
Meanwhile, Ali al-Shihabi, a member of the advisory board of NEEM, said: “The matter was mentioned in relation to Neum,” adding that the church “is definitely on the leadership task list.”
David Rondell, a former diplomat in Riyadh, also told Insider that NEOM is a possible location for the first church given the distinct nature of the judicial system.
And he added, “NEOM is about to become a non-Saudi entity in many respects.”
On the other hand, the priority of securing a church in Saudi Arabia varied among the various administrations that passed through the White House. As Rondell said. The issue was important to the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, Mohammed bin Salman showed a greater willingness to embrace different religions, after he had already met with the Maronite Patriarch. Bishara Boutros Al-Rahi, Coptic Bishop Ava Morcos, Catholic Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
There is no doubt that the Saudi crown prince is the one who makes the decision, but of course there will be opposition. Prince Abdullah said: “Will it be. There is opposition to the decision. I definitely think so. But will it be violent opposition? I doubt this, given the strength and effectiveness of the security services in the Kingdom.
In a related context, Sheikh Asim Al-Hakim, a prominent Saudi cleric, said on his YouTube channel: “Do you see any mosques inside the Vatican? No. Consequently, no churches can be built here. These are holy lands. ”
In general, experts are confident that a church will be built in Saudi Arabia soon, but no one knows the exact time. So much so that Rosenberg. Who has spent hours arguing with the Saudi crown prince about this is optimistic.