Saudi Arabia poised for more religious freedom?
Is a Door Opening for Christianity in Saudi Arabia?
Stunning political developments in Saudi Arabia have some wondering if the strict Muslim-ruled Kingdom could become more tolerant of Christianity.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has said he intends to return Saudi Arabia to "moderate Islam" and open the country to all faiths.
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As part of his reform drive, dozens of officials – including 11 princes – have been arrested on corruption charges. The kingdom also says it has dismissed several thousand imams from mosques for spreading extremism.
The percentage of Saudi Arabian citizens who are Christians today is officially zero, because conversion from Islam to Christianity has long been punishable by death.
But it's estimated that between four and five percent of the population is Christian – mostly guest workers who are not allowed to worship openly.
Some are hopeful that change is coming.
"The days of a religious monopoly in Saudi Arabia are over," says Christian Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab to Christianity Today, "No more pushing Islam down every citizen's throat."
Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, said of the reform promises, "I hope it will lead Saudi Arabia and the region to a more open society."
But time will tell whether Prince Mohammed can bring real reform and religious pluralism to a nation that has known little to none of it since its founding.
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