Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rai completed his two day visit to Saudi Arabia in a historic first visit to the Kingdom. Coming from Lebanon, the only country in the Middle East with a Christian president, and visiting a country that does not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, the importance of the visit of one of the Middle East’s most prominent minority religious figures to the Kingdom cannot be understated. The last time a major Christian leader visited the kingdom was in 1975, when Greek Orthodox Patriarch Elias IV of Antioch visited Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom does not allow the building of Christian churches on its land, and Christians are forced to worship secretly in private homes that are often targeted in raids.
Maronite Patriarch al-Rai met with the Lebanese expatriate community at the Lebanese Embassy’s headquarters in Riyadh and met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
When asked about his meeting with the Prime Minister Hariri, the Patriarch assured that it was a very good meeting and that he was convinced with the reasons PM Hariri gave for his resignation. Hariri had announced earlier today on his Twitter account that he would be back to Lebanon in a few days.
“The Patriarch’s visit comes at a time of high tensions in Lebanon on account of the regional Saudi-Iranian proxy war. Last weekend, Saudi Arabia is believed to have pressured Prime Minister Saad Hariri to step down in order to assert Saudi regional domination over Iran at Lebanon’s expense. Wahhabi-inspired and Saudi-funded groups have wreaked havoc on both Muslims and Christians in the Middle East and Europe. The instability brought on because of the Saudi-Iranian chess game in Lebanon and the region is getting worse, and the greatest impact is being felt by religious minorities across in the Middle East” said IDC Executive Director Philippe Nassif.
Last month at IDC’s 2017 summit American Leadership and Securing the Future of Christians in the Middle East, Patriarch Rai had called on the U.S. administration to support Lebanon and Christians in the Middle East.
IDC calls on the U.S. administration to continue its support to Lebanon in order to ensure its security and stability. H.Con 252, introduced by Representatives Lahood and Kaptur, reaffirms this request by highlighting the importance of having a sovereign Lebanon free of external interference, including from Iran and Saudi Arabia, in order to continue to allow Lebanon to serve as a role model of coexistence and peace in the Middle East.