Displaying items by tag: Saudi Arabia
An agreement to restore relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran has opened the possibility of peace talks between Riyadh, which backs Yemen’s official rulers, and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. Saudi and Houthi representatives met with Omani mediators in Yemen last week to negotiate a permanent ceasefire. Pray for further progress. The UN estimates that 4.5 million Yemenis are displaced and two-thirds of the population are in dire need of humanitarian aid. In eight years Yemen has endured terrible suffering from bombs and mines causing needless deaths. The war is fuelled by Saudi Arabia, Britain, America and the United Arab Emirates - and also Iran, which has supplied funds and weapons to Houthi rebels. There are miles of negotiations and diplomatic manoeuvrings to go, but to reach this point is a tremendous tonic for Yemenis who have seen war plunge their beautiful and naturally resource-rich country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI) recently visited Saudi Arabia to explore potential for future ministry. Saudi Arabia has recently issued tourist visas to be open to the West. FMI expected to see more opulent wealth from Saudi petroleum dollars. But a third of the cars they saw had significant damage, indicating one of the reasons for opening up to the West is to develop tourism and business opportunities. The oil industry is drying up. FMI freely interacted with friendly Saudis. There were few women out and about , all wearing black veils. There are underground churches for foreign workers, each with 15 - 30 members as venues are small hotel apartments. The government forbids citizens to leave Islam. FMI hopes to visit more congregations on future trips and identify the key leaders of Saudi Christians.
Iraqis, Muslims, Christians and those of no faith at all tune into a radio station vastly different from what is normally heard on Middle Eastern airwaves. ‘Saut al Salam’ or ‘Voice of Peace’ is broadcast from a tiny studio in Qaraqosh and reaches 150,000 listeners, living up to its name. The programmes have no politics or conflicts. The broadcasters tell stories about the church, Christianity and Christian life, dispelling many misconceptions in the Muslim world that are passed on from generation to generation. For instance thinking that Christians just like to party and drink alcohol. Saut al Salam is changing wrong perceptions with programs on raising children, Christian music, and reporting cultural church events. Their highest hope is that listeners, a majority of whom are not Christians, will hear a message of peace, consideration and love.
Joe Biden will visit Israel and Saudi Arabia from 13 to 16 July. The 16th is a Jewish fast day in remembrance of Jerusalem's walls being breached. On that day the president will visit Saudi Arabia where Washington has been brokering talks to transfer a pair of Red Sea islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in a deal that would see Riyadh take small steps toward formal diplomatic ties with Jerusalem. It is also believed that Biden’s visit to the Gulf kingdom is to seek an increase in its oil production and coordinate with regional partners on Iran. The president’s schedule of two days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem indicates Washington also aims to solidify the two-pronged ties with Jerusalem while assuring the Palestinians that his administration is still proactively committed to the two-state solution.
Saudi Arabia executed 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to belonging to militant groups, the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history. The number of executed surpassed even the toll of a 1980 mass execution of 63 militants convicted of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, the worst-ever militant attack to target the kingdom and Islam's holiest site. The executions came as much of the world's attention remains focused on Russia's war on Ukraine. Death penalty cases in Saudi Arabia had dropped during the pandemic, though the kingdom continued to behead convicts under King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The state-run Saudi press agency announced the executions included those convicted of murdering innocent men, women and children. The kingdom also said some belonged to al-Qaeda, IS and backers of Yemen's Houthi rebels.
Abdullah al-Howaiti was 14 years old when he was arrested in 2017 on charges of murder and armed robbery. The Supreme Court had overturned his original conviction last year. He was first sentenced to death in 2019, after he was convicted by a court in Tabuk province of shooting dead a policeman while robbing a jewellery shop. Five other defendants were handed 15-year prison terms for allegedly aiding and abetting the crimes. All six had pleaded not guilty, telling the judge that interrogators coerced their ‘confessions’ through torture or the threat of it. The judge also ignored CCTV footage showing that Howaiti was not near the jewellers’ shop at the time of the crime. The court of appeal in Tabuk upheld the conviction in January 2021, but the Supreme Court threw it out in November and ordered a retrial.
Mecca: the holiest city in Islam, reputedly the birthplace of the prophet Muhammad and the destination for Muslims on the sacred hajj pilgrimage. This year, the hajj is from 17 to 22 July. Although the pilgrimage has Covid limitations, Mecca is still preparing for 60,000 pilgrims. The city of Mecca has 1.5 million residents. You have to be a Muslim to get in the city limits. Entering Mecca as a non-Muslim could result in fines, deportation, or worse. How could anyone there hear the Good News that they have a Saviour who loves them? How could the Gospel possibly reach such a closed city? The Holy Spirit and prayer are not limited by borders or bans.
A Saudi women’s rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul (31), was arrested along with about a dozen other female activists in May 2018. She has been on hunger strike for a week, and on 5 November her health was said to be rapidly worsening. UN experts are calling for her immediate release. She was arrested just weeks before Saudi Arabia lifted a decades-old ban on female drivers, yet she is still in prison. Her deteriorating health was ‘deeply alarming’, said the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The committee, made up of 23 independent experts, also voiced serious concern ‘by recent information concerning the conditions of Ms al-Hathloul’s prolonged detention, including reports that she is not allowed regular contact with her family’. Some activists arrested with her were provisionally released. Others remain in detention, subjected to waterboarding, sexual harassment, and court trials for contacting media, diplomats and human rights groups.
‘There are no heroes in Yemen, just criminals and victims’, said a human rights investigator. The victims are millions of ordinary Yemenis caught in a protracted proxy war that brought Yemen to its knees and turned it into the world's biggest humanitarian disaster. The lack of easy access to the country for journalists and international monitors means many Yemenis feel, as one doctor put it, that ‘we are screaming in pain, but no one is hearing’. Recently a Sky investigation team travelled hundreds of miles through armed checkpoints and rough terrain to gather testimonies from the victims, witnesses and survivors. Families in Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest municipality and once a cultural epicentre, have experienced some of the fiercest fighting during the six-year civil war between pro-government troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition (supported by the USA and the UK) and Houthi rebels, supported by Iran. Both sides are guilty of grave human rights abuses: see
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime if they are able. On the Hajj Muslims seek the forgiveness of sins and to deepen their allegiance to Allah. In Luke 7, Jesus said to a sinful woman, ‘Your sins are forgiven: your faith has saved you; go in peace’. Jesus has the authority and power to forgive all of our sins through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection. 1.8 billion Muslims in the world today reject Jesus as a Saviour. Instead, they go on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in order to earn forgiveness of sins from Allah. A phrase used in most Arabic conversations is ‘al-ḥamdu li-llāh’ - literally, ‘Praise be to God’. Pray for people to truly know God and praise Him when they use this phrase. See also