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Saudi Arabia

_images_files/content/article_files/Lent_Prayer/2013/4X3/saudi-arabia_4X3.jpg
Mecca in Saudi Arabia is Islam's holiest site
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Al Jazeera English

Muslims who become Christians in Saudi Arabia, one of the most rigid, hardline and authoritarian states in the world, are officially punishable by death. When a Muslim woman gave her life to Jesus Christ in 2012, she fled the country and managed to escape to safety in Sweden. But the authorities detained two of her colleagues, who had helped her, and sentenced them in May 2013. One, a Lebanese man, received a six-year jail term and 300 lashes for helping the woman to become a Christian, and the other, a Saudi, was given two years’ imprisonment and 200 lashes for aiding her escape.

Saudi Arabia makes no provision for religious freedom. Its official religion is Sunni Islam; its constitution is the Quran and the traditions about Muhammad; and its legal system is based on the government’s strict interpretation of sharia. There is no separation of state and religion, and all the country’s citizens must be Muslims. School textbooks, sermons and fatwas promote hatred and violence against Christians and Jews.

Blasphemy, as well as apostasy, officially carries a death sentence. In line with Muhammad’s prohibition of more than one religion in the Arabian Peninsula, the government disallows the public practice of any non-Muslim religion. There are no non-Muslim places of worship in the country, and the small number of Saudi Christians must practise their faith in extreme secrecy. Although expatriate Christians, who are far greater in number, are permitted to worship in private, their meetings may be raided by the mutawaah (religious police), and they may be harassed, detained or deported. The mutawaah ruthlessly enforce restrictions on behaviour, and ordinary citizens may also act as anti-Christian vigilantes.

Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest Muslim sites, Mecca and Medina, and the Saudi government considers itself the authoritative voice of Islam. It promotes Wahhabism, a strict and puritanical form of Islam, throughout the wider region. There was once a large Christian population, which vanished completely when Islam gained control around 630 AD.

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    • Almighty God, we pray that You will protect Your people in the Holy Land. We pray especially for the congregation of a church in Gaza City, whose church compound was attacked with a small explosive device on 26 February. We give You thanks that the church, school, nursery and pastor’s house were undamaged and that a fi re that was lit under the pastor’s car was extinguished when Christians came outside to investigate. We pray that the congregation may stand firm for You in the face of the threatening message that was written on the wall facing the church gate: “We’ll get you soon, O worshippers of the cross.” We ask that there will be no further attempt to attack this church or others in the area. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Jul 2014 00:18

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