Saudi Arabian officials welcomed an American Christian delegation on Tuesday, a day before the US commemorated the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The US group engaged in dialogue with officials about counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process, religious freedom, human rights, and ongoing reforms related to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic plan, according to a press release by the delegation.
“Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most important strategic allies in the war against … terrorism and in countering the rising Iranian threat. We urge more congressional leadership to come here, see the sweeping and positive reforms that the Crown Prince is making, and ask him candid questions directly, rather than sniping at him from Washington,” said New York Times best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg, one of the delegates.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed the nine Americans to the Royal Court in Jeddah. The group included author Lenya Heitzig, President of the Congress of Christian Leaders Reverend Johnnie Moore, and former US ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission John Kenneth Blackwell.
The delegation said that although some may ask why the visit took place during the week of September 11, they felt there was “no more appropriate time to focus on where the Kingdom must go, can go and where we believe it is going.”
“Our visit here on this profoundly important week is in defiance of those that aim to derail reform in the Kingdom through an embrace of hate and fear rather than courage and moderation,” the delegation said in a statement.
Saudi Arabian officials present included Princess Reema Bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States; Prince Khalid bin Salman, deputy minister of defense; Dr. Mohammed al-Eissa, secretary general of the Muslim World League; and Adel al-Jubeir, minister of state for foreign affairs.
The US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Abizaid was also present.
Moore, president of the Congress of Christian leaders and a member of the delegation, said that it was his third visit to Saudi Arabia within a year.
“When people ask why I have come so many times I say, ‘it is hard to keep up with the change,’” Moore tweeted.
This is actually my own 3rd visit to Saudi w/i a year. When people ask why I have come so many times I say, “it is hard to keep up with the change”— Johnnie Moore ن (@JohnnieM) September 11, 2019
Really substantive discussions.
Really unthinkable a few yrs ago for Christians like us to be welcomed in the Gulf as we are today. https://t.co/UthdwTmIyn
The American group was briefed by senior staff of ETIDAL, Saudi Arabia’s center for countering extremist ideology, and toured the ancient Nabatean city of Hegra and the futuristic city of NEOM.
Earlier this week two US senators, Angus King, I-Maine, and Todd Young, R-Indiana, visited the Kingdom and met with the Crown prince.