The government of Saudi Arabia says with absolute assurance that there are no Saudi Christians in the kingdom of Saud.
But some nationals quietly worshiping inside the kingdom say otherwise; Christ is no respecter of earthly borders.
No Separation of Mosque and State
There is no separation of mosque and state in Saudi Arabia. The government follows a strict form of Islam called Wahhabism (or Salafism, to supporters). It claims to foster interfaith dialogue around the globe, yet within her borders she prohibits citizens from choosing any other form of religion. Her human rights abuses are notorious toward homosexuals, women, religious minorities, the press, and anyone else who expresses dissatisfaction with either the monarchy, or its particular expression of Islam.
The Saudi government is known for its inhumane treatment of government and religious dissenters, imprisoning and publicly lashing those who write and criticize its human rights abuses. One cannot even be a Saudi citizen if one is not a Muslim, and leaving Islam can result in charges of apostasy or death.
Emad al-Abdi knows this first hand. Once he risked converting to Christianity in Saudi Arabia he found beauty and support among others who give everything to follow Christ in this hostile environment. Watch his six minute testimony here.
Emad quickly learned the high cost of following Christ, once he was found out and imprisoned with other Christian friends. After suffering torture and solitary confinement for his crime of “apostasy,” he was imprisoned in a cell with 81 hostile jihadist prisoners in the hopes that they would eliminate him, and do the government’s work for them. Instead, he brought the truth of Christ.
After enduring torture for some months in prison, he was miraculously released. He has fled to safety in another unnamed country, yet is burden continues for the many Christians who still worship secretly in the Saudi kingdom.
The Reconciliation Will Be Televised
The miracle of Brother Emad’s release has set him on a new trajectory. A convert from Shia Islam, he has now embarked on a ministry of reconciliation, hosting a devotional television show on Al-Hayat TV with Dr. Khaled al-Shammari, a convert from the Sunni sect of Islam.
Many consider the cultures of the Sunnis and Shias to be irreconcilable, yet together they are showing the healing power of Christ across historical and cultural lines. As they launch their new series The Saudi Magazine, many in the kingdom of Saud will witness centuries of animosity between two cultures erased at the foot of the cross.
We can’t help but applaud this unique ministry to the citizens of the True Kingdom who dwell behind the walls of the kingdom of Saud.
Things to know about Saudi Arabia:
- Saudi Citizenship is tied to Islamic identity, so conversion is seen as government subversion. One must be a Muslim to be a citizen; those who convert from Islam are, in effect, renouncing their citizenship.
- Converts to Christianity are banned from having a bible, meeting to worship, or even simply drawing the shape of the cross.
- Blogger Raif Badawi has been imprisoned and flogged for blogging “anti-government sentiments.” In May 2014, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a 10-year travel ban, and a lifetime ban from appearing in the media. He was convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s draconian information technology (IT) law and “insulting Islam” (blasphemy). Rights activists and journalists around the world have volunteered to take sets of lashes on his behalf.
- This week, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for the removal of Saudi Arabia from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), due to “gross and systematic violations of human rights” at home, and in its ongoing conduct in the war in Yemen.