Tue. Nov 12th, 2019

Christian evangelical delegation meets Saudi crown prince

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met
Tuesday with a delegation of American
evangelical Christians in the Red Sea city of
Jiddah as the kingdom works to forge closer
ties with an influential electoral base in the
U.S. that could be crucial to the 2020
elections.


The visit comes the same week two U.S.
senators met with the crown prince in the
first such visit by members of Congress in
more than a year. The prince continues to
face fierce bipartisan criticism in the U.S.
over the murder of Saudi critic and
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi
in the Saudi consulate in Turkey last year,
despite denials by the kingdom that he had
any involvement.
Prince Mohammed’s meeting with prominent
Christian figures marks only the second such
visit by American evangelicals to the
kingdom, which is trying to shake off its
reputation for religious intolerance and
human rights abuses.
For the crown prince and other Arab leaders,
meetings such as this offer an opportunity to
strengthen ties with the Trump
administration through his evangelical base
of supporters.
For the evangelical visitors, it is an
opportunity for interreligious dialogue and to
push for greater Arab support for the state of
Israel.
Many U.S. evangelicals support Israel as a
core part of their faith. Most believe that
before Jesus can return and rule, Jews must
return to the Holy Land and rebuild the
Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, also the site of
Islam’s sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
The Saudi government published photos of
the meeting, which was attended by leading
American Christian Zionist leaders, including
dual U.S.-Israeli national Joel Rosenberg.
The nine-person delegation also included the
Rev. Johnnie Moore, a co-chairman of
President Donald Trump’s Evangelical
Advisory Council; Larry Ross, a former
longtime spokesman for one of America’s
most well-known evangelicals Billy Graham;
and Pastor Skip Heitzig, whose Calvary
Albuquerque church in New Mexico has over
15,000 congregants.
A brief statement issued by the Saudi
Embassy in Washington said the two sides
discussed promoting coexistence and
combating extremism.
In an email response to The Associated
Press, Rosenberg said each person in the
delegation traveled to Saudi Arabia in an
individual capacity and that the group had
meetings with a range of officials on Monday
and Tuesday, with plans for more meetings
on Wednesday. Traveling by motorcade, they
had meetings with U.S. Ambassador John
Abizaid, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to
Yemen, and flew to the ancient Saudi site of
Al-Ula for a tour.
Tuesday’s meeting at the royal palace in
Jiddah also included Saudi Ambassador to
the U.S. Princess Reema bint Bandar, Deputy
Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman,
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-
Jubeir, and head of the Muslim World League
Sheikh Mohammed al-Eissa
The delegation, led by Rosenberg, said in a
statement its members were grateful to have
deepening relationships in Saudi Arabia “to
talk openly, if sometimes privately, about
what we believe must change in the kingdom
even as we celebrate the kingdom’s progress
in so many other areas.”
They said they were “stunned to learn” only
two U.S. senators had visited Saudi Arabia
this year, describing the kingdom as one of
America’s “most important strategic allies”
and urged more senators to visit and ask the
crown prince candid questions “rather than
sniping at him from Washington.”
Independent Sen. Angus King and Republican
Sen. Todd Young met with Prince
Mohammed on Sunday in Saudi Arabia. King
told AP that the visit was aimed at doing a lot
of listening and getting some answers from
the crown prince.
“Both by his demeanor and his language, he
knows that he has a problem and he gave us
reassurances that the people responsible for
the death of Khashoggi are going to be
brought to justice,” said King, who sits on the
committees on intelligence and the military.
He said Prince Mohammed is also aware of
the problem of civilian deaths in the war in
Yemen, now in its fifth year.
“Words are important, but I’m interested in
seeing actions and we’ll see whether they
follow through,” King said.

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