Christian communities in Saudi Arabia possible

New Christian communities are on the cards in Saudi Arabia.

At present, all other religions besides Wahhabite Islam are prohibited.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently begun a series of social reforms.

They have raised the hopes of Christian communities in the Middle East.

The reforms have resulted in Saudi leaders meeting representatives of other Christian traditions in recent months, suggesting a more open environment in the kingdom which hosts Islam’s holiest sites.

On Wednesday Salman met Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

Tauran is the president of the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue at the Vatican.

It is the first visit to the kingdom by such a senior Catholic authority and the first between the current Saudi ruler and a Catholic official.

Tauran’s visit was welcomed by the Global Center for the Combating Extremist Ideology.

Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), and Tauran signed a cooperation agreement on achieving common objectives.

This agreement represents the culmination of the previous cooperation agreement signed between the MWL and the Pontifical Council, following Al-Issa’s visit to the Vatican last September.

At that time, Al-Issa met with the Pope and Tauran.

Tauran praised the MWL’s efforts in leading initiatives to strengthen relationships and build bridges between religions.

“… I am fully aware of the relentless efforts exerted to make it through its various programmes, really reflect the true meaning of its name, a link, not only among Muslims but also with believers of other religions, especially Christians, to achieve common goals,” he says.

More than 1.5 million Christians currently live in Saudi Arabia.

Despite their number, celebrating Mass or worship is formally prohibited under penalty of arrest by the Saudi religious police.

Various religious groups have continued to operate in clandestine fashion, often on diplomatic premises.

Another 1.5 million live in the surrounding emirates, where several churches have already been built.


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