Christians Promote Religious Freedom in Visits With Middle East Leaders

The Saudi Arabian government released a photo of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meeting with evangelical leaders. Twitter photo

Southern Baptists are praying in Jesus’ name in the offices of Muslim princes and presidents hosting evangelicals on tours promoting religious freedom in the Middle East.

In the office of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jerry Johnson of the National Religious Broadcasters led a prayer for bin Salman just days after the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, in a visit officially unrelated to Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“I prayed for him a Christian prayer … in Jesus’ name,” Johnson, a Southern Baptist and NRB president, told Baptist Press Jan. 4. Bin Salman “seemed very engaged and affected by the whole thing.”

“We got to do something that you couldn’t do out on the street,” Johnson said. “We shared the Gospel and we prayed in Jesus’ name.”

Messianic Jewish commentator and bestselling author Joel Rosenberg, who organized the meeting in an ongoing series of trips with evangelicals to the Middle East, was also in the room, along with two other Messianic Jewish leaders including Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team.

“For a Jew to be in the palace with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is a pretty unusual thing,” Johnson said. Rosenberg, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, expressed to bin Salman surprise at being invited to the crown prince’s office, Johnson told BP, describing Rosenberg’s presence as evidence to bin Salman that ethnicity need not determine religious faith.

“Joel was just subtly an illustration that if a Jew can believe in Jesus, an Arab can believe in Jesus,” Johnson told BP.

Johnson has participated in two trips Rosenberg has organized, accompanying delegations to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in October 2018.

Khashoggi’s death wasn’t the focus of the Riyadh meeting, but the delegation discussed it with bin Salman, Johnson said.

Bin Salman said his followers, in defending his monarchy, may have “gone out on their own. He said this was wrong; they’ll have to pay the price,” Johnson said. Saudi Arabia has arrested 18 people in the Oct. 2 killing, believed to have occurred at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. “He said just don’t judge before [you] see all the facts.

Though the Khashoggi killing wasn’t the focus on their visit, Johnson said, “We wanted [bin Salman] to know though, we thought it was horrible. We thought it was awful, unacceptable. We wanted him to know … we were very concerned about it, and American Christians would be concerned.”

Freedom of the press has not been a main subject on the trips, although different countries evoke different agendas, he said. In addition to freedom of religion, educational textbook accuracy and freedom of speech have been discussed.

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Source: Baptist Press