Christianity in Saudi Arabia
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Christians had formed churches in Arabia prior to the time of Muhammad in the 7th century. Ancient Arab traders had traveled to Jerusalem for trade purposes and heard the gospel from St Peter (Acts 2:11) and Paul the apostle spent several years in Arabia (Galatians 1:17), later further strengthened by the ministry of St Thomas who went to Arabia, Persia and later to the Indian subcontinent.
Some parts of modern Saudi Arabia (such as Najran) were predominantly Christian until the 7th to 10th century, when most Christians were expelled or converted to Islam or left the region via the Sea route to Asia, with which merchant trade already existed, others migrated north to Jordan and Syria and settled into those new places. Some Arab Christians who remained lived as crypto-Christians, or secret Christians. Some Arabian tribes, such as Banu Taghlib and Banu Tamim, followed Christianity.
Ancient Arabian Christianity has largely vanished from the region.
1858 massacre of Christians in Jeddah
On June 15, 1858, 21 Christian residents of Jeddah, then an Ottoman town of 5,000 predominantly Muslim inhabitants, were massacred, including the French and British consuls, by "some hundreds of Hadramites, inhabitants of Southern Arabia", maybe as a retaliation after the repression by the British of the Indian Rebellion of 1857-1859. 24 others, mostly Greeks and Levantines, some "under British protection" plus the daughter of the French consul and the French interpreter, both badly wounded, escaped and took refuge, some by swimming to it, aboard the ship HMS Cyclops.
Christian community today
There are more than a million Roman Catholics in Saudi Arabia. Most of them are expatriate Filipinos who work there, but are not Saudi Arabian citizens. As of 2008[update], the percentage of Christians of all denominations among the roughly 1.2 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia was about 90%. There are also Christians from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Greece, South Korea, Ireland, the United Kingdom, India, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and as well a number of Christians from sub-Saharan countries who are working in the Saudi Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia allows Christians to enter the country as foreign workers for work or tourism, but does not allow them to practice their faith openly. Saudi Arabia accepts the private practice of religions other than Islam. Bringing a Bible and other types of religious texts are allowed into the country as long as it is for personal use.
The Saudi Arabian Mutaween (Arabic: مطوعين), or Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (i.e., the religious police) prohibits the practice of any religion other than Islam. Conversion of a Muslim to another religion is considered apostasy, a crime punishable by death if the accused does not recant. There have been no confirmed reports of executions for either crime in modern times. The Government does not permit non-Muslim clergy to enter the country for the purpose of conducting religious services. In spite of this, a 2015 study estimates that there are some 60,000 Christians with a Muslim background living in the country, though that does not mean that all of those are citizens of the country.
International Christian Concern (ICC) protested what it reported as the 2001 detention of 11 Christians in Saudi Arabia, for practicing their religion in their homes. In June 2004, at least 46 Christians were arrested in what the ICC described as a "pogrom-like" action by Saudi police. The arrests took place shortly after the media reported that a Quran had been desecrated in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
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According to the Society of Architectural Heritage Protection Jeddah and the Municipality of Jeddah, a long-abandoned house in Al-Baghdadiyya district has never been an Anglican church, contrary to the "'myth' that had spread on the Internet". However, in 1930 there was a non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah.
The percentage of Saudi Arabian citizens who are Christians is officially zero, as Saudi Arabia forbids religious conversion from Islam and punishes it by death (see capital punishment in Saudi Arabia).
- Human rights in Saudi Arabia
- Freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia
- Roman Catholicism in Saudi Arabia
- Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Saudi Arabia
- Protestantism in Saudi Arabia
- Capital punishment in Saudi Arabia
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