Pular para o conteúdo

Bolsonaro’s friend, dictator persecutes Christians in Saudi Arabia

By Henrique Canary, from São Paulo (Brazil), translated from portuguese by Daniel Kraucher
Alan Santos/PR

Bolsonaro never tires of repeating that, if Lula wins the election, he will close churches and persecute Christians. These infamies have already been denied dozens of times. The most evident proof that Lula defends religious freedom is that he himself sanctioned Law nº 10,825, of December 22, 2003, known as the “Religious Freedom Law”, an instrument that guarantees the free establishment of religious organizations in the country, forbidding the State to prevent its creation. Religious freedom itself is already guaranteed by the Federal Constitution of 1988 and does not depend on the President of the Republic.

But let’s get down to what really matters. Bolsonaro lies about Lula at the same time that he maintains beyond sinister relations with the dictator of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, who is indeed a persecutor of Christians in his country.

Saudi Arabia is an absolutist monarchy (absolute power of the king, without the control or mediation of a parliament) located in the Arabian Peninsula, Middle East. 97% of Saudi Arabia’s population is Muslim, which in itself is not a problem. The big issue is that in Saudi Arabia there is no religious freedom at all, especially for Christians. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is prohibited by law and constitutes the crime of “apostasy”, which can lead to death penalty. Christians in Saudi Arabia are mainly Asian immigrants and expatriate workers. These people cannot freely express their faith, not even within their own homes, which are often inspected by the country’s religious police (yes, that’s what you read: there is a religious police in Saudi Arabia). In the face of any sign of worship or proselytism, the person can be expelled from the country (the last Christian pastor was expelled in 1985). The celebrations of Ramadan, a Muslim holiday, are mandatory for foreign Christian workers, while Christmas and Easter are prohibited.

Ok, but who rules this country and how is their relationship with Bolsonaro? The de facto ruler of the country is Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and is away from governance functions. After a few reformist measures at the beginning of his term, Prince Mohammad soon revealed his true dictatorial face and established a government marked by persecution and terror against Christians, women and opponents in general. You may remember the 2018 episode in which Prince Mohammad was accused of ordering the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a journalist’s visit to the Saudi consulate in Turkey to resolve documentation issues. Khashoggi was killed and quartered by 15 consulate security guards and his body was dumped in suitcases. The Saudi government even admitted that the journalist had been killed at the consulate “during a fight”, but never explained neither the quartering nor the disposal of the body in suitcases.

On a visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, Bolsonaro not only met with the prince (which would be inevitable and understandable on a state visit), but said that between them there was “a certain connection” and that anyone would like to spend an afternoon with the prince, “particularly the women”. Bolsonaro’s relation with the dictator is not limited to rhetoric, although rhetoric, in this case, is very important. Saudi Arabia is Brazil’s main trading partner in the Middle East, with investments in infrastructure, defense, energy, agribusiness and (very importantly!) concessions and privatizations.

Bolsonaro chatters endlessly about Nicaragua, but he never criticized Prince Mohammad for his persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia and even invited him to visit Brazil in February this year, which ended up not happening.

Once again, pedophilia accusations

The icing on the cake of this whole story is that Prince Mohammad (guess what!) is also accused of pedophilia. In March 2020, the British justice judged the divorce petition of the Princess of the United Arab Emirates, Haya Bint Al-Hussein, from her husband, the Emir of Dubai Mohammed Al Maktoum. Haya Bint Al-Hussein fled the United Arab Emirates in 2019 and filed for divorce in British court. She claims that among the main reasons for her flight from the United Arab Emirates was the agreement between Emir Al Maktoum and Mohammad bin Salman to hand over the couple’s 11-year-old daughter Princess Jalila in marriage to the prince. Terrified that her 11-year-old daughter would marry a 34-year-old man, Haya fled the UAE and took refuge in England, where the case came to light.

These are the kind of people praised by Bolsonaro around the world and with whom he has “a certain connection”, “shares certain values”, is a “brother” and other atrocities.

Finally, let’s just comment that the persecution against Christians is not new for Bolsonaro because “bolsonarism” already does it here in Brazil against any Christian who dares to oppose his policy of death and hate. The episode in Aparecida’s cathedral, in which the priest who was saying the mass to celebrate the day of Our Lady of Aparecida was booed when he spoke against the “dragon of hunger and hate” should alert us to the type of “religious freedom” defended by Bolsonaro. Anyone who didn’t feel sick by watching, at the same event, the bolsonarist pointing to the beer mug with Bolsonaro’s photo and claiming “This is my God” simply doesn’t have a stomach. And it doesn’t stop there: there’s the persecution against Father Julio Lancellotti and his work of charity and human solidarity, not to mention the open demonization of religions of African origin. This is Bolsonaro’s true relationship with religious freedom. This, too, is what we need to avoid.