The lack of religious freedom and human rights in Saudi Arabia has long been an issue for the Middle Eastern monarchy, but thanks to reform-minded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, change is slowly coming to the oil-rich nation. On Saturday, May 5, 2018, Al Jazeera revealed the reported signing of an agreement between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia to allow the construction of new Christian churches in the kingdom.
While there are still many aspects of life in Saudi Arabia that would be entirely foreign to the average American, the Prince has promised to modernize his nation and loosen the reins of social control. According to the Washington Post, the 32-year-old prince hopes to and put an end to the corruption that was so prevalent among members of the royal family, government officials, and the Saudi business elite.
Prince Bin Salman appears to be keenly aware that religious freedom is a major issue in Saudi Arabia, and until the reported signing of the agreement with the Vatican, it was illegal to build a church in the Islamic nation. There are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million foreign Christians living in Saudi Arabia, including more than 1 million Roman Catholics.
Currently, Christians living in Saudi Arabia are required to worship in internet chat rooms, foreign embassies or private homes. The Saudi government has been known to closely monitor Christian worship in the Kingdom to prevent non-Islamic proselytizing.
As reported by MSN, change appears to be on the horizon for Christian residents of Saudi Arabia after Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, and Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, reportedly signed the groundbreaking agreement to permit the construction of new churches in the kingdom. The deal was allegedly reached during the Cardinal’s recent visit to the kingdom in April.
In an article from the Jerusalem Post on April 26, 2018, the Cardinal also discussed the problems facing all of the world’s religions and the need for religious tolerance during his visit.
“I think all religions are faced with two dangers: terrorism and ignorance. During my meetings, I insisted very much on this point, that Christians and non-Muslims are spoken of well in schools and that they are never considered second-class citizens.”
Although the specific terms of the agreement are still unverified at this time, Fox News also claimed that Saudi Arabia had agreed to allow the building of new churches in the kingdom. However, according to a new report from the Daily Mail, the Vatican has denied that an agreement has been reached at this time. The Vatican did confirm that Cardinal Tauran had visited with the Saudi Royal Family in April 2018, but a Vatican spokesperson said the reports of a definitive agreement were “false.”
The Inquisitr will continue to follow this story and update as more information becomes available.