The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, hosted the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, at a private meeting in Lambeth Palace, today, and discussed a range of issues including religious freedom for Christians in Saudi Arabia and the conflict in the Yemen. Archbishop Justin was accompanied in the meeting by the Bishops of Newcastle and Leeds, Christine Hardman and Nick Baines for the hour-long meeting. In a statement, a Lambeth Palace spokeswoman said that Archbishop Justin was “encouraged” to hear about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 roadmap. “The Crown Prince made a strong commitment to promote the flourishing of those of different faith traditions, and to interfaith dialogue within the Kingdom and beyond,” the statement said.
In the statement, the spokeswoman said that “the Archbishop shared his concern about limits placed on Christian worship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and highlighted the importance for leaders of all faiths to support freedom of religion or belief, drawing on the experience of the UK.
“In a cordial and honest conversation, the Archbishop voiced his distress at the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and asked that all that is possible be done to alleviate the suffering of civilian populations and to seek an end to the conflict.
“As leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Archbishop shared the challenges and concerns of Anglicans from around the world, who often as a minority faith community have few advocates for freedom of religion or belief where they live. He emphasised the crucial role that Saudi Arabia could play in protecting minorities across the world.”
During the visit, the Archbishop showed the Crown Prince a selection of early Christian, Muslim and Jewish texts from the Lambeth Palace library collection, as well as the Birmingham Qur’an manuscript – written in Arabic Hijazi script and radiocarbon dated to between 568 and 645 AD, it is amongst the earliest written parts of the Qu’ran still in existence. It was sent to Lambeth Palace for the Crown Prince’s visit by its owners, Birmingham University.
The visit to Lambeth Palace is part of an official visit to the UK by the Crown Prince, and follows a visit to Egypt earlier this week. On Monday, the Crown Prince met with Pope Twadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church and discussed “the brotherly relations between the kingdom and Egypt,” the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, adding: “they stressed the importance of the role of different religions and cultures in promoting tolerance, renouncing violence, extremism and terrorism and achieving security and peace for the peoples of the region and world.
“The Crown Prince paid tribute to the role of the Copts in stabilising Egypt and standing with the issues of the Arab and Islamic nation.”
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Pope Tawadros said that ““The Prince spoke a lot about his love for Christians”. He revealed that the Prince had invited the Pope and all Copts to visit Saudi Arabia.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, meets Pope Tawadros II in Cairo on Monday.