Two weeks ago, we prayed for Blue Girl and Iran. This week we want to turn in prayer for Saudi Arabia. Like Iran, Saudi has been in the news a lot recently due to the different political situations within the region. However, one of the reasons they were in Western media is because they have announced, as part of their Vision 2030, to create visas for citizens from 49 countries. This has become a talking point as before now only businesses travellers and Hajj goers have been given visas.
Saudi has, historically, been a very closed country. They have never felt the need to apologise for imprisoning those they deem to break the law and they fiercely guard their right to have laws they feel right for their country. This has included bloggers who have criticised the lack of freedom of expression and religious choice, women’s right activists, and victims of crime being imprisoned as well as the perpetrators. The death of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi (murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul) which caused international outrage at the time, has largely been swept under the carpet. The alleged perpetrators are still waiting for their sentences which many expect will never come.
Over the past 3 years Saudi Arabia has been working on their Vision 2030, which has been introduced by the Crown Prince. For many years Saudi Arabia has relied on oil for their economy and they are now looking to diversify their income to prepare for when the it runs out. They are looking for different investment opportunities which includes tourism. At the moment tourism only makes up 3% of the economy, they are looking to have it up to 10% by 2030 which is the global average.
The Vision 2030 has already brought large changes to the country, especially for Saudi women. As part of the initiative they are now allowed to drive, the male guardianship laws have been relaxed allowing women over the age of 21 to be able to leave the country without a male relative’s permission, and entertainment facilities have opened like cinemas and concert halls.
However, many see these changes as surface level, done only to remove the countries negative image and to appear friendlier for tourists and foreign investors. Although this may only be a PR exercise, which will not make a real difference to the lives of women and men in Saudi, we should pray that real, deep-rooted change will come from Vision 2030. This initiative may have only been created for selfish reasons, but let us pray that God would work through it to bring a freedom to the Kingdom that has not been seen before. True equality for all citizens, true freedom of expression and religious choice, and a judicial system that is open and honest.
Let us turn in prayer for Saudi Arabia this week:
Lord, we ask for protection for all those living in fear in Saudi Arabia. Whether that be from the police or family members, we pray protection upon them and for their hearts to be filled with your joy.
We pray for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned Lord. We especially remember the five women’s right activists who have been imprisoned and tortured. We ask for their immediate freedom and safety.
We pray for the families whose loved ones have been brutally executed in public this year (134 so far) – Lord have mercy on them, bring comfort to their grieving hearts.
We pray for Vision 2030. Let this be a time of real change within the Saudi Kingdom, allowing for real freedom for the citizens. Let the next 10 years enable a lasting positive change for the whole region.
We pray for the Crown Prince, Lord, change his heart. Reveal yourself to him and his family. Use him Lord to bring about a lasting freedom and kindness to the region.