A delegation of conservative evangelical Christian leaders from the United States met Thursday (Nov. 1) with Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who is under fire after the death of a journalist in his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
The delegation met with the embattled leader at the royal palace in Riyadh to hear his vision for the kingdom and the region — a first for a group of U.S. evangelicals, according to a press release about the meeting from A. Larry Ross Communications.
The meeting comes one month after the death of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, for which Saudi Arabia has acknowledged responsibility after first denying knowledge of the journalist’s disappearance, then deflecting blame onto rogue intelligence agents.
Khashoggi disappeared Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate in Istanbul to get documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee. The Saudi government publicly has called his death a “terrible tragedy.”
But questions remain, and most recently the Washington Post reported that Salman claimed in a phone call with U.S. officials that Khashoggi was dangerous and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Khashoggi’s family denies.
The crown prince also reportedly urged President Trump’s advisers Jared Kushner and John Bolton in the call to preserve the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
“There’s a lot of people who would say this is the wrong time to go to Saudi Arabia and meet with the leadership there. I understand that criticism, but I disagree,” author Joel Rosenberg told CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News.
Rosenberg, who wrote an opinion piece praising Salman as a reformer in late August for Fox News, led the delegation, which included Christian media leaders and several of Trump’s unofficial evangelical advisers.
The group decided to meet with Salman despite the controversy surrounding him because, according to the statement, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most important nations in the Middle East, in all of history.” It also is “the beating heart of the Arab and Islamic world,” influencing Muslim theology around the world, it said.
“While the Kingdom is restrictive and controversial in various and serious respects, it has under the Crown Prince begun to undergo reform and professed the desire to change in profound ways,” the statement said.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Emily McFarlan Miller