As part of his first public trip abroad as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman visited the UK and had a private meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby yesterday, 8 March, at Lambeth Palace in London.
As part of his reforms to modernise his country, the prince promised to promote interfaith dialogue, Lambeth Palace said later.
“The Crown Prince made a strong commitment to promote the flourishing of those of different faith traditions, and to interfaith dialogue within the Kingdom and beyond,” a statement from Lambeth Palace said.
The leader of the Anglican Church expressed his concern regarding “limits placed on Christian worship in Saudi Arabia” and indicated the importance of leaders of all faiths supporting freedom of religion.
Prior to visiting the UK, the Saudi royal visited close ally Egypt and met the leader of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, in Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral. The meeting was called “unprecedented” by Egypt’s state media and in line with the prince’s promise to promote a more moderate form of Islam in his country.
At present, there are no church buildings in Saudi Arabia; Christian services are held in secret places. Christians from Muslim backgrounds usually keep their faith hidden; several have been forced to leave the country after their newfound faith was discovered. Leaving Islam is technically punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, yet the number of Saudi Muslims becoming Christians is increasing, according to Christian charity Open Doors International.