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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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    • “It is not typical for a man to show or talk about his weaknesses and admit them. These days the fear and pressure from the authorities and the Muslim world reveal the condition of my heart.” A Christian leader in Central Asia shared frankly in a letter the way in which the constant pressure he faced was wearing him down. He wrote how, having finally recognised his fears and defeats, he had then received encouragement from the Lord through the words of 2 Corinthians 1:1-10. Pray for our brother “M.T.” and the countless other Christians around the world living with ongoing opposition that the Father of compassion and God of all comfort will draw close and comfort them in all their troubles. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Nov 2014 00:00

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