Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative Muslim country where Christianity is outlawed and the Bible is prohibited. Last week the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia met with Evangelical leaders, who represent millions of Christians. Guests of honor came on the wave of world storm raised after the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. However, the invitation from the Royal family has done a few months before. The delegation understood that this visit many people will find controversial, but they saw it as an opportunity to help Christians that for them is much more important than gossip.
“Many will say that this is not the best time to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet with its leaders. I can understand people criticizing that decision, but disagree with them. Given that we are not indifferent residents of Saudi Arabia, especially Christians, we wanted them to have more freedom to worship and allowed to build Christian churches. All of this is important for us,” says Joel Rosenberg, head of the American Evangelical delegation.
“When people ask: “Why are you going? Why meet with them?”, I remind them that we Christians are called to be peacemakers, defenders of freedom of worship, advocates tolerance and peaceful coexistence. And so I answer them: “how can I not go?” says the defender of religious freedom johnny Moore.
“We’re not here for short-term goals. We’re not here for photos. Don’t care about us. We are here to build long-term relationships that will benefit our brothers and sisters living in this region,” says former U.S. Congressman Michele Bachmann.
After a visit to Saudi Arabia they met with the crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates. Evangelical leaders hope that these visits will help to establish long-term relationships with the Sunni countries of the Middle East.
The head of the near East Bureau of the CBN, Chris Mitchell joined us directly from Jerusalem.
MHN: Chris, you spoke with members of a Christian delegation before they went to Saudi Arabia. What they want to achieve? And how do you think what will be the outcome of their visit?
Chris Mitchell, head of the CBN middle East Bureau:
When I was with the delegation, it was the feeling that this is a historic moment. They met with crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. It is important to remember that meeting with him is only one of many Sunni leaders. The Evangelical delegation met with Jordan’s king Abdullah, Egyptian President Al-Sisi and with the crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates. But the most important meeting with crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The delegates knew that the time for meetings, and perhaps not quite suitable, especially in the context of what happened with Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But they decided that this opportunity is too important to leave out and meet the most influential leader of the Middle East.
MHN: Tell us what life is like for Christians in Saudi Arabia.
Very hard. Now in Saudi Arabia there is no Church, and most Christians are expatriates. And when we were in the Emirates, we saw that freedom of worship which can be called from Sunni countries. They have dozens of churches. We met one of the local Evangelical pastors. He told us about the freedom of worship that prevails in them. Many immigrants attend Church. United Arab Emirates – this is a very interesting country. 90% of its inhabitants are immigrants, people who came from other countries. There is only 10% of the indigenous population. We spoke with Jerry Johnson, President of the NRB, and he said that what is happening in the UAE cannot be compared with America where there is freedom of worship and religion. But he believes that this is a good example for other countries of the Persian Gulf.
MHN: why the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia wanted to meet with Evangelical leaders of the United States?
I think first and foremost he understands that in that delegation are present advisers of the President of trump in matters of religion. Including Mike Evans and johnny Moore. And this is one way to strengthen relations with the United States. In addition, I believe that the Prince understands that the delegation sees a common enemy in the face of Iran and the “Muslim Brothers”. And it is another way to show that Saudi Arabia, which is opposite Iran, also sees it as a mortal threat. I believe that the manifestation of partnership in the fight against the common enemy – Iran and the “Muslim brotherhood” is what he wants to show us.
MAN: Should we expect dramatic changes in the middle East against Christians and Jews?
Of course. We see how history is written. The American delegation, headed by Joel Rosenberg meets with UAE crown Prince and visited Saudi Arabia. At the same time there was held an international competition in judo, in which two Israelis won gold. This meant that for the first time in an Arab country was followed by the national anthem of Israel “Atikva”. And all this was seen by the Minister of sports and culture of Israel Miri Regev. The first sounded the national anthem of Israel and was raised his flag. It happened for the first time. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first visited Oman. We see that these incredible meetings are held with Christians and Jews. This is a truly historic event. Also recently in the Studio we talked with Rabbi Marc Schneier and you’ll see this interview in the program “meeting Place – Jerusalem.” Schneier met with Arab and Muslim leaders for over ten years. He says that this is due to the hand of God. It’s a miracle. We see how history is written.