Church leaders in India have joined the call made by Catholic and Orthodox leaders in Europe to condemn the call to tear down all Christian churches in the Arabian Peninsula made by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.
The All Indian Christian Council (AICC) said the comments made by Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah were “bigoted” and “dangerous” for the millions of Christians living Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states.
Last month the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia told a group of Kuwaiti clerics that it was “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” His remarks came as Kuwait’s parliament began debate over legislation banning the construction of new Christian churches. Over 3.5 million Christians live in the Arabian Peninsula including one million Filipino Roman Catholics and several hundred thousand members of the Church of South India along with members of other orthodox churches and protestant denominations.
Saudi Arabia forbids Christian worship and its rigorous anti-Christian policing has drawn condemnation from Western governments. The AICC’s general secretary, John Dayal, called on the Indian government to protect its citizens and for other “civilized countries to ensure that the nations of the Arabian Peninsula clearly reject the Wahhabi imam’s bigoted statement.”
Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for overseas churches called the Saudi sheikh’s statement “alarming, while the Roman Catholic bishops’ conferences of Germany and Austria said the statement by the Saudi sheikh was an unacceptable denial of human rights for the millions of “overseas foreign workers” in the region.