All Saudis are considered Muslims, and the legal system is based on Sharia, or Islamic law. There are no church buildings in the country; 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.

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Saudi Arabia told: ‘Christians are not second-class citizens’

There are no churches in Saudi Arabia and Christians have to meet in secret. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

A senior Vatican official told Saudi officials during a visit last week that Christians must not be treated as second-class citizens. “During my meetings, I insisted very much on this point, that Christians and non-Muslims are spoken of well in schools and that they are never considered second-class citizens,” the […]

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Saudi school textbooks still ‘promote hatred toward religious minorities’ – USCIRF

A school complex in Medina, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Ikhlasul Amal via Flickr; CC 2.0)

School textbooks in Saudi Arabia still include content “promoting violence and hatred toward religious minorities and others”, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Even though the Saudi government has been “engaged in textbook reform for the last 15 years”, a new study by USCIRF found […]

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Saudi Arabia to ban ‘extremist ideologies’ from schools and universities

Sign portraying Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wants to be known as a reformist, in the capital Riyad. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Saudi Arabia has pledged to ban the “extremist ideologies” espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood from school curricula and books, and to dismiss staff who support the group’s views. In a statement released on Tuesday (20 March), the Minister of Education, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Isa, said the ministry is working to […]

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Saudi Arabia is modernising, but will this mean greater freedom for religious minorities?

Saudi Arabia is modernising, but will this mean greater freedom for religious minorities?

The political landscape in the strict Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is changing, and quickly. A charismatic crown prince seems determined to modernise his country and even speaks of a shift towards a more “moderate” Islam. But will the changes taking place in Saudi also ease the situation for members […]

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Saudi Arabia to reopen ancient church as ‘gift’ to visiting Lebanese Patriarch

Saudi Arabia to reopen ancient church as ‘gift’ to visiting Lebanese Patriarch

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has reportedly announced plans to restore and re-open a 900-year-old church as a “gift” to the Lebanese Patriarch. The church is to be used as a centre for inter-religious dialogue, according to Catholic news agency Fides. The Maronite Patriarch, Bechara Boutros al-Rai, has […]

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Saudi Arabia pledges to scrutinise hadiths to ‘eliminate’ extremism

The big mosque near Deera square in Riyadh with room for 20,000 people. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Saudi Arabia has pledged to monitor preachers and jurists’ use of Prophet Muhammad’s hadiths (sayings) “to prevent them being used to justify violence or extremism”. Saudi’s King Salman has ordered an international council of senior Islamic scholars to scrutinise the hadiths. The Saudi Culture and Information Ministry promised on Tuesday […]

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Saudi Arabia clerics ‘guilty of hate speech’ against religious minorities

Men standing in front of a building in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Some Saudi religious scholars and clerics use language that discriminates against and demonises religious minorities, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. “Saudi Arabia has permitted government-appointed religious scholars and clerics to refer to religious minorities in derogatory terms or demonise them in official documents and religious rulings that […]

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