First Coptic Mass Held in Saudi Arabia
12/03/2018 Saudi Arabia (International Christian Concern) – Multiple news outlets report that Saudi Arabia hosted its first Coptic Orthodox mass this past Sunday. The mass was held inside a home in Riyadh and led by Bishop Anba Markos, Metropolitan of Shoubra al-Kheima, Cairo. It occurred following an invitation offered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this past March. Anba Markos has previously visited Saudi Arabia on three pastoral visits since the year 2012.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia maintain a close economic relationship. According to a 2017 report by Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), most of the 9.5 million Egyptians working abroad live in Saudi Arabia. They are reportedly the largest Arab expatriate community in Saudi Arabia.
The Christian population in Egypt is considered a state secret by the authorities, but many estimate that Egypt has the largest concentration of Christians in the region. Most belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The harsh living conditions which they are subjected to have forced many to seek employment outside of the country, including in Saudi Arabia.
Crown Prince bin Salman has made several gestures towards foreign religious figures within the past year. However, he has taken no steps to improve the religious freedom situation for Saudis. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom labels Saudi Arabia as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern.
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