Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Church in Saudi Arabia

S. Arabia, Vatican in talks over churches

Mike Ghouse: Three article follow my comments.

I have lost track of a Saudi minister who had asked me to put together an interfaith meeting with about 20 people, comprising Jews, Christians and Muslims. I fought with him to include all faiths, but finally agreed to work in stages, from familiar to unfamiliar ones. It was some where around 2005. I am pleased to see at least a dialogue is emerging between Vatican and Saudi's. Neighboring Dubai has just opened up a mega church this month.

I recall some Mormon friends of mine who had a congregation in Saudi Arabia way back in 1978-80 headed by a Houstonian by name Norman Powell, and of course my buddy Everett Blauvelt of Richardson was a Mormon as well, who first went to Saudi in early 40's and had worked there for nearly 30 years and made a come back in late seventies. There were several others who attended the Baptist and Catholic mass on Sundays. The Indian, Pakistani and Filipion christians groups had their own gatherings as well.

### Now the article

LONDON, March 18: The Vatican and the Saudi Kingdom are holding secret talks on lifting the age-old ban on building churches in Saudi Arabia, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper quoted one of Pope Benedict’s most senior Middle East representatives, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hashem, as saying: “Discussions are under way to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom. We cannot forecast the outcome.”

There are said to be around three or four million Christians in Saudi Arabia.

At the Vatican, the Pope’s spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said: “If we manage to obtain authorisation for the construction of the first church, it will be an outcome of historic dimensions.”

The opening last Friday of the first church in Qatar left Saudi Arabia as the only country in the region that still bans the building of churches and all forms of open Christian worship.

Diplomats in Rome said talks on the building of churches would be consistent with recent developments.

Saudi Arabia is among the few countries that do not have diplomatic links with the Vatican, but sources in Rome say the Saudis are keen to establish formal relations.

In Qatar last Saturday, some 15,000 people attended an inaugural mass at the country’s first church. Our Lady of the Rosary in Doha is one of five Christian places of worship planned in the state.

Addressing the reciprocity issue, Qatar’s deputy prime minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, said: “We are enjoying the construction of mosques and Islamic centres in the West, so we must be fair (to Christians).”

The Pope is expected later this year to meet representatives of 138 Muslim scholars who wrote a letter to Christian leaders last October calling for peace between the two religions.

# # # # #

First Catholic church for Saudi Arabia
Published: March 18, 2008

Negotiations are underway to build the first Catholic church in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah lending his support for its construction.

Vatican Radio reports the Vatican and the Saudi government are currently in talks to allow the church despite the kingdoms ban on allowing the construction of any non-Muslim place of worship.

No religion other than Islam is allowed to schedule public services, and even the possession of bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes is forbidden.

Saudi Arabia is the only country on the Arabian Peninsula without a Catholic church despite the 800,000 Catholics - virtually all of who are foreign workers.

While Saudi Arabia does not have formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See, King Abdullah became the first reigning Saudi monarch ever to visit the Vatican last November.

Commenting after his meeting with the Pope Vatican officials confirmed the Pontiff pressed for permission to open a Catholic church in the kingdom.

Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that opening a Catholic parish in the Islamic land would be "a historic achievement" for religious freedom and a major step forward for inter-religious dialogue.

The apostolic nuncio to Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, is reportedly the lead Vatican negotiator in talks with Saudi officials.

# # # # #

Date: Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:48 pm
Subject: First Catholic Church for Saudi Arabia

[1:1] In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful[6:107] Had GOD willed, they would not have worshiped idols. We did not appoint you as their guardian, nor are you their advocate.
Salamun Alykum.

Negotiations are underway to build the first Catholic church in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah lending his support for its construction. We congratulate the King
for his action since it supports the sacred teaching of God and His messenger.

According to the Quran, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights:

[17:70] We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.

The Quran gives everyone the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion:

[2:256] There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.

God Almighty never gave any guardianship role to the Messengers or Muslims over religious issue:

[33:40] Muhammad was not the father of any man among you. He was a messenger of GOD and the final prophet. GOD is fully aware of all things.[4:80] Whoever obeys the messenger is obeying GOD. As for those who turn away, we did not send you as their guardian.
[6:66] Your people have rejected this, even though it is the truth. Say, "I am not a guardian over you."
[6:104] Enlightenments have come to you from your Lord. As for those who can see, they do so for their own good, and those who turn blind, do so to their own detriment. I am not your guardian.
[6:107] Had GOD willed, they would not have worshiped idols. We did not appoint you as their guardian, nor are you their advocate.
[10:108] Proclaim: "O people, the truth has come to you herein from your Lord. Whoever is guided is guided for his own good. And whoever goes astray, goes astray to his own detriment. I am not a guardian over you."
[11:86] "Whatever GOD provides for you, no matter how small, is far better for you, if you are really believers. I am not a guardian over you."
[42:48] If they turn away, we did not send you as their guardian. Your sole mission is delivering the message. When we shower the human beings with mercy, they become proud, and when adversity afflicts them, as a consequence of their own deeds, the human beings turn into disbelievers

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person:

[2:178] O you who believe, equivalence is the law decreed for you when dealing with murder - the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the female for the female. If one is pardoned by the victim's kin, an appreciative response is in order, and an equitable compensation shall be paid. This is an alleviation from your Lord and mercy. Anyone who transgresses beyond this incurs a painful retribution.

[2:191] You may kill those who wage war against you, and you may evict them whence they evicted you. Oppression is worse than murder. ...

[16:126] And if you punish, you shall inflict an equivalent punishment. But if you resort to patience (instead of revenge), it would be better for the patient ones.

[17:33] You shall not kill any person - for GOD has made life sacred - except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, he will be helped.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind:

[2:136] Say, "We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters."

[49:13] O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.

Thank you and may God guide us,

M. Irtaza

# # # # #

Vatican-Saudi talks on churches

Archbishop Hashem discussed the Saudi talks whilst visiting Qatar
The Vatican is holding talks with Saudi Arabia on building the first church in the kingdom, where some 1.5m Christians are not allowed to worship publicly.
Archbishop Paul-Mounged el-Hachem, one of Pope Benedict XVI's most senior Middle East representatives, said the discussions had begun a few weeks ago.

But the archbishop cautioned that the Vatican could not predict the outcome.

The discussions come in the wake of King Abdullah's historic meeting with the Pope at the Vatican last November.

A Catholic-Muslim Forum was also set up by the Pope two weeks ago to repair relations between the two faiths after the crisis caused by a speech he gave in Germany in 2006, in which he appeared to associate Islam with violence.


The disclosure of talks between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic ties, came soon after the first Roman Catholic church in the Qatari capital, Doha, was opened in a service attended by 15,000 people.

Archbishop Hachem, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, Bahrain and the UAE, who attended the inauguration, said he hoped there would soon be a similar church for the many Christians in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

If we manage to obtain authorisation for the construction of the first church, it will be an outcome of historic dimensions

Father Federico Lombardi
Spokesman for Pope Benedict

"Discussions are under way to allow the construction of churches in the kingdom," he said.

Although he made clear the outcome was uncertain, the archbishop added that a church in Saudi Arabia would be an important sign of "reciprocity" between Muslims and Christians.

The Vatican has noted that Muslims are free to worship openly in Europe and demands religious freedom as a condition for the opening of diplomatic relations.

About a million Catholics, many of them migrant workers from the Philippines, live in Saudi Arabia.

They are allowed to worship in private, mostly in people's homes, but worship in public places and outward signs of faith, such as crucifixes, are forbidden.

The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985.

Christians complain that rules are not clear and that the Saudi religious authorities, who enforce the kingdom's conservative brand of Islam, Wahhabism, sometimes crack down on legitimate congregations.

The authorities cite a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that only Islam can be practised in the Arabian Peninsula.

A spokesman for Pope Benedict, Father Federico Lombardi, said: "If we manage to obtain authorisation for the construction of the first church, it will be an outcome of historic dimensions."

The Times

March 17, 2008

Saudi Arabia extends hand of friendship to Pope
Richard Owen in Rome
The Vatican is believed to be holding talks with Saudi authorities over opening the first Roman Catholic church in the Islamic kingdom, where Christian worship is banned and even to possess a Bible, rosary or crucifix is an offence.

The disclosure came the day after the first Catholic church in Qatar was inaugurated in a service attended by 15,000 people and conducted by a senior Vatican official.

The Vatican and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations. However, Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the Papal Nuncio to Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Yemen and Bahrain, who attended the Doha inauguration, said that moves towards diplomatic ties were under way after an unprecedented visit to the Vatican last November by King Abdullah. This would involve negotiations for the "authorisation of the building of Catholic churches" in Saudi Arabia, he said.

The move would amount to a potential revolution in Christian-Muslim relations, since Saudi Arabia adheres to a hardline Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and is home to Mecca and Medina, the most holy sites of the religion. No faith other than Islam may be practised.

Related Links
Analysis: Saudi Arabia and the Vatican
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said that he could not confirm that the two sides were in negotiations. However, he added: "If, as we hope, we reach an agreement authorising the construction of the first church in Saudi Arabia, it will be a step of historic importance."

Saudi religious police search the homes of Christians regularly; even private prayer services are forbidden in practice. Foreign workers have to observe Ramadan but are not allowed to celebrate Christmas or Easter.

La Stampa, the Italian daily, said that the talks would have been "unthinkable" until recently. The way was paved by King Abdullah's talks with the Pope and by the recent setting up of a permanent Catholic-Muslim forum to repair relations between the two faiths after the Pope's controversial remarks on Islam at the University of Regensburg in 2006.

The Pope said that his apparent reference to Islam as inherently violent had been misunderstood and he made amends by praying at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul soon afterwards.

Of the Saudi Arabian population, 94 per cent are Muslim and less than 4 per cent - nearly a million people - Christian, nearly all of them foreign workers. The last Christian priest was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1985.

Qtar, which hopes to bid to host the Olympic Games in 2016, has approved five churches for other Christian denominations, including the Anglican Communion.

Land of one faith

— Saudi laws do not recognise or protect freedom of religion. Non- nationals are severely restricted in practising different faiths

— Missionaries are banned and face imprisonment if caught. Sunni Muslims face severe repercussions from the Mutawwain, or religious police, for breaking Muslim law

— The official policy of allowing non-Muslims to worship freely at home is not reliably enforced

— In the courts, once fault is determined, a Muslim receives all of the amount of compensation determined, a Jew or Christian half, and all others a sixteenth

Sources: US State Department; Conference of Catholic Bishops

Posted by Profile of Mike Ghouse at 9:50 PM
Labels: Catholic, Christianity, Church, Islam, Muslim, Saudi Arabia, Sunni

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.