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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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    • Praise God for the continued Christian presence in northern Mali, despite the apparent desire of jihadists to wipe it out. Most of the Christians who had fled the region when Islamist radicals took control in 2012 have now returned to their homes, after French troops ousted the Islamists. Many church buildings were desecrated, looted or severely damaged, but the Christians are determined to resume their ministries. Pray for their protection. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 12 hours ago

    • Continue to pray for church leaders in Christian-majority Burundi that they may have wisdom in responding to the unfamiliar situation of political restriction by their own government. A new law passed in August requires each church to have at least 500 members and a proper building; congregations were given a year to comply. Pray that religious liberty will be maintained in Burundi, both for Christians and for the small minorities who follow other religions. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Dec 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we pray to you for our Christian brothers and sisters in north-eastern Nigeria, who are so vulnerable in the face of attacks by Boko Haram militants. We remember especially those who used to live in Shani, in Borno state, until their town was raided by Boko Haram on 29 November. We cry out to You to intervene and bring an end to the murderous attacks by Boko Haram. We pray for all the thousands of Nigerian Christians who have suffered in similar attacks that they will not lose hope or faith in You, but will know Your peace which passes understanding. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Dec 2014 00:00

    • “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also,” said the Lord Jesus. (John 15:20). Let us not forget our brothers and sisters who suffer daily because of their faithfulness to Christ and help them with our prayers (Philippians 1:19). Pray that they may take comfort in the words of the Lord Jesus, knowing that He understands what they are enduring for His Name. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Dec 2014 00:00

    • The substantial Armenian Christian population of Syria are mostly descendants of Armenians who fled to Syria to escape from the Armenian Genocide, which peaked in 1915. The attacks of Islamist groups in Syria, which they now face, seem to them like another genocide. But praise God for their courage and determination. When the mainly Armenian town of Kessab and its surrounding villages were attacked the inhabitants fled for safety to Latakia. After the Syrian army had liberated Kessab, the Armenian families began to return to their homes, even though there was no electricity or water and they had to go back to Latakia every night to sleep. Elsewhere, when the situation in Homs stabilised, an Armenian congregation wanted to repair their church building first, but their church leader urged them to focus on making their homes habitable again. Pray that they may remain strong in the Lord. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Dec 2014 00:00

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