On Friday, President Obama will travel to the intolerant, feudal land of Saudi Arabia for consultations of some sort. Instead of bowing again to the local satrap, he should be getting in his face about his country’s oppression of Christians.
According to Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, Saudi Arabia is uniquely hostile, even among Muslim nations, to its Christian population and any Christians who happen to find themselves there.
From an article Shea wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
Saudi Arabia is the only state in the world to ban all churches and any other non-Muslim houses of worship. While Saudi nationals are all “officially” Muslim, some two to three million foreign Christians live in the kingdom, many for decades. They have no rights to practice their faith. The Saudi government has ignored Vatican appeals for a church to serve this community, despite the fact that in 1973 Pope Paul VI approved a proposal for the Roman city council to donate city lands for a grand mosque in Rome. The mosque, opened in 1995, is among the largest in Europe.
Christian foreign workers in Saudi Arabia can only pray together clandestinely. Religious-police dragnets against scores of Ethiopian house-church Christians, mostly poor women working as maids, demonstrate the perils of worshiping: arrest, monthslong detention and abuse, and eventual deportation.
Distributing Bibles in Saudi Arabia is illegal.
The fanatical intolerance of everything Christian extends to a crackdown on red roses on Valentine’s Day. Visiting European soccer teams with cross logos must blur the icon on team jerseys. At one holiday party in the American school in Riyadh, a Santa Claus had to jump through a window to escape religious police, according to Mr. Eid’s account.
The Saudis need us more than usual right now. They are paralyzed at the notion that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons, as they should be. Obama should prey on their fear and inform them that they must stop the oppression of Christians and allow them to worship and build churches.
Obama upon arriving in Saudi Arabia will have just alighted from the Vatican. Hopefully, the Pope will remind the president of his stipulation, made just last month at the National Prayer Breakfast, that “promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.”
Unfortunately, I’d wager the man who did this in 2009 is unlikely to arise and start twisting Saudi arms.