Churches in Saudi Arabia?

Cultural changes in Saudi Arabia have been a frequent topic on Gadling. We’ve talked about advancements such as: Saudi women being allowed to drive, controversial books being permitted distribution, bans on photography being lifted, and restrictions such as men imprisoned for flirting and the banning of red roses for Valentines day.

The latest, and what might be the most significant cultural change in the works is the possibility of building churches in the country. According to the BBC, the talks are the result of Saudi King Abdullah’s meeting with the Pope last November. Allowing churches to be built would give 1.5 million Christians who live there a place to worship — something that they can do only privately at the moment. The last Christian priest was expelled from the kingdom in 1985.

These talks were spurred after Doha allowed for a Catholic church to be built where the first mass was held earlier this year, attended by 15,000 people. Doha has now given the go ahead for Anglican, Orthodox and Coptic churches to be built.

According to the UK Times: “Saudi Arabia adheres to a hard-line 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 practiced.” If churches do come around to being built in the kingdom, it will be a huge feat in Muslim-Christian relations.