For the “first time in the country’s history,” Saudi Arabia has agreed to build Christian churches for its Christian population, which before now has been banned by law from practicing their faith openly.
The Egypt Independent reports the signing of a cooperative agreement between Saudi officials and the Vatican to “build churches for Christian citizens to advocate the important role of religions and cultures in renouncing violence, extremism, terrorism and achieving security and stability in the world.”
The report explains the deal was reached between the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Secretary General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa and the French cardinal of the Catholic Church Jean-Louis Tauran.
“The agreement also states that a coordinating joint committee will be established comprising two representatives for both sides to organize future meetings. The committee is expected to be held once every two years and its meetings will be alternated between Rome and a city chosen by the Islamic World League,” the report said.
An Italian newspaper published by the Vatican also reported that Tauran expressed support for the equal treatment of all citizens, “regardless their religion.”
Tauran said in the newspaper interview he was pleased with the result.
“It is a sign that the Saudi authorities are now ready to give a new image to the country,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s most important locations, Mecca and Medina, and representations of the Christian faith long have been suppressed.
Bin Salman had met weeks ago with Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, and Tawadros had described him as representing a modern image of Saudi Arabia, the report said.
“The visit of the Saudi Crown Prince was a great pleasure, and I was very impressed by his personality and smile, and his knowledge and understanding of history and current events,” Tawadros said during an interview on MBC TV satellite channel.
Breitbart revealed the Financial Express explained Saudi Arabia’s newfound openness to and socio-cultural cooperation with the non-Muslim world “stems from a desire to reduce dependency on oil resources, its primary economic driver.”
The Breitbart report said Saudi Arabia is currently the only country in the region without a Christian church, after Qatar opened a church in March. Saudi Arabia follows Islamic Wahhabism, which bans all forms of non-Muslim religious activities.
As recently as January, Saudi Arabia was ranked 12th on a list of the world’s worst 50 nations where Christians are persecuted.
“Christian women are the most vulnerable population in the world. We can show, with data, so many sexual assaults and so many forced marriages,” Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry told WND and Radio America.
Of the 50 nations on the list, 36 are there because of repression in Islamic nations, including nine of the worst 10 nations. Atheistic North Korea is still worst, but the next nine – Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran – are all Islamic.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with David Curry: