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Saudi Arabia has been heavily criticised for its persecution of Christians, at a major Saudi-organised interfaith meeting in Vienna.
A Christian human rights campaigner, Elmar Kuhn, accused the Saudis of persecuting Christians in their home country and highlighted the fact that they have no rights of publish worship.
The conference was organised by the King Abdullah International Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue (KAICIID) on 18 and 19 November on the theme of “The Image of the Other”. The criticism is a major embarrassment for a monarchy that forbids all expressions of Christianity in Saudi Arabia, despite being allowed to finance mosques across the world.
Mr Kuhn, general secretary of the Austrian branch of the human rights organisation Christian Solidarity International (CSI), told his hosts it was “a great pity” and “certainly a deadly earnest matter” that of all interfaith centres KAICIID should have applied itself to interreligious dialogue without any progress having been made in this field in Saudi Arabia itself.
Five hundred experts, policymakers and religious leaders working in the fields of education and religion from more than 90 countries took part in the two-day conference.
Before he left for Vienna to take part in the conference, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran told Vatican Radio that it was important to use this channel to build bridges between Christianity and Islam adding, “I’m a realist. The baby has begun to walk and must be supported.”
The Saudi centre was inaugurated in Vienna on 26 November 2012 with the Holy See as a “founding observer”.