A Church in the Desert

by Jay Nordlinger

Tucked somewhere in Impromptus today is the recent quote from the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia — the one where His Mufti (His Muftiness?) says it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.”

When I heard that, I thought (I swear), “There are churches in the Arabian Peninsula?”

A reader writes,

I worked in the Kingdom in 1998-99, and I “made my year,” as we used to say. I saw one church, an archeological relic — Nestorian, in fact — out in the desert. People were allowed to go and have a look at it. For protection against vandalism, it was surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire. The stone cross had been removed from the altar.

In the West, there’s a mosque on every corner. In Saudi Arabia, churches are (essentially) banned. I’ve often wondered: Don’t Saudis, particularly those who travel, study, or work in the West, think that’s a little weird? Does it ever make them a little ashamed? Does it ever make them, in the words of the old rap song, go “Hmmm”?

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