Secular Saudi Arabia? Why the Islamist nation is planning to build churches

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New Delhi | May 03, 2018 2:05 PM

With an aim to reduce dependency on oil resources, its primary economic driver, Saudi Arabia appears to have adopted a different approach to reach out to the world. This new approach includes socio-cultural cooperation with the world and exploring new avenues of partnership.

Mohammad Bin Salman (Photo: Reuters)

With an aim to reduce dependency on oil resources, its primary economic driver, Saudi Arabia appears to have adopted a different approach to reach out to the world. This new approach includes socio-cultural cooperation with the world and exploring new avenues of partnership.

As per a report published in the Egypt Independent, the Saudi administration has signed an agreement with the Vatican to build churches for its Christian citizens. The agreement was signed by the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdel Karim Al-Issa and the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in the Vatican and the French cardinal of the Catholic Church Jean-Louis Tauran, the online daily reported.

The development is significant in the current world scenario, where on one hand, the Saudi prince is trying to present the country’s image as a monarch of moderate Islam and is pitching for the elimination of hardline Islamists who are creating catastrophes in the form of radical terrorism, and on the other, approaching religious leaders for mutual cooperation.

In March this year, Daily Mail reported about the meeting of Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman with Catholic leaders in New York. The news of secret meetings between Vatican and Saudis for the construction of churches was also reported by The Guardian in March.

With Qatar having already opened a church in March, Saudi Arabia remains the last country in the region that still has no churches. Saudis, inspired by Wahhabism philosophy, ban all forms of non-Muslim religious activities in the kingdom.

India, on the other hand, has successfully pitched for a temple in UAE, another Islamic country, where a Hindu temple would be a reality soon.

The socio-cultural cooperation has taken a prominent status in today’s foreign affairs and countries like Saudi Arabia relaxing their orthodox positions certainly signals a promising development.

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