Some people argue that freedom of religion should prevail, and that Muslims should reciprocate the freedom of religion enjoyed in non-Muslim countries. Others hold that Saudi Arabia is the center of Islamic history and culture, and therefore Islam should have special status in the Kingdom.
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Latest DevelopmentsSt. Mary's Catholic Church has opened in neighboring Qatar, holding the country's first Christian worship service in March 2008. Public church services are already held in other Gulf countries, such as Kuwait and UAE. However, there is not yet any indication that talks between Saudi Arabia and the Vatican have or will result in any change of that country's policy.
BackgroundThe Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became a unified country in 1932. Non-Muslims live and work in the Kingdom, but are banned from public worship of religions other than Islam. The holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, sites of Islamic pilgrimage and worship, are only open to Muslims.
In 2005, Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2008, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia entered into talks with the Vatican about the possibility of opening the first Christian church in the country.