Saudi Arabia: In Favor of Interreligious Dialogue

Source: FSSPX News


King Abdallah ben Abdel Aziz of Saudi Arabia called the organization under the aegis of UNO to a dialogue between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. “The idea, is that I ask (representatives from) all the monotheistic religions to gather with their brothers in the faith,” declared the Saudi sovereign, in Riyad, on March 24, on the occasion of the 6th forum on dialogue of civilizations between the Islamic world and Japan on the theme: Culture and Respect for Religions.

In this country governed by an ultraconservative monarchy of Wahhabite inspiration -- a rigorist Muslim doctrine --, non-Muslim religions cannot have any place of worship. Thus, Christians who want to practice their religion must do so secretly and in private places, lest they be discovered by men of the Saudi Religious Police, the much-feared Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, commonly known as Moutawa.

With over 5,000 men, the religious police has extensive powers in the kingdom. It is particularly active in cities, where it exhorts passers-by to go to the mosque at the times of prayers, and women to be careful to wear the veil.

In charge of watching that moral order is respected, it had been warned by the Minister of the Interior not to go beyond its rights, after several persons had died under suspicious circumstances these past months.

For, in Saudi Arabia, where the territory is considered as a “mosque”, religious police search even private apartments for Christian objects, taking no account of the presence of millions of foreign workers (mainly Filipinos) many of whom are Christians. Some practice their religion in clandestinity, running the risk of being arrested.

While Saudi authorities claim that they accept the private practice of religions other then Islam, religious books, Koran excepted, and other similar objects may be confiscated. Thus, the fact of carrying a great quantity of books or religious objects can lead to severe sanctions, with the risk of being accused of having missionary activities.

The king, quoted by the official news agency SPA, affirmed having obtained “the green light” from the Saudi oulemas (doctors in Islamic sciences) for his project, and added that he was going to consult with the Muslim heads of interested countries. “Then, if God wills, we will begin to meet with our brothers from the other religions, those of the Torah and of the Gospel, (…) to agree upon the means of safeguarding mankind,” he added, pointing out that he planned “on addressing UNO” to present his project.

He stated that he thus wanted to “save” mankind from decadence. “We have lost sincerity, morals, fidelity and attachment to our religions and to mankind,” he said, and he deplored “the disintegration of the family, the rise of atheism in the world, a scary phenomenon which all the religions must confront and overcome.”

Alluding to his meeting with Benedict XVI, this past November 6, (see DICI 165), in the following words: “an unforgettable meeting, a meeting man to man,” King Abdallah said that he had proposed to him this idea (of a dialogue with Islam).” (Sources: Apic/AFP/SPA)