Earlier this month Sunni Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shia cleric (and 46 others). There was outrage in Shia Tehran and the Saudi embassy was sacked by angry crowds. Diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi are now frozen. The episode has ramped up tension in the already very tense Middle East. This is an important time for Christians to pray for peace.
The execution of Nimr al-Nimr caused an uproar among Lebanon’s Shiites and an angry standoff between Hezbollah, backed by the Iranians, and the Sunnis, supported by Saudi Arabia. In Yemen Saudi planes continue to bomb the Shia Houthis who are allied to Iran. In Syria, Iran backs President Assad (an Alawite linked to the Shias), the West and Saudi want regime change. In Iraq Iran’s revolutionary guards are fighting ISIS on the ground. Saudi is also officially opposed to ISIS; but spends more time telling the Western media that the great threat to the region is the rise of the Shia crescent.
A full-scale war between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be catastrophic for the Iran region - and the growing church. Minorities tend to suffer even more severely under the cover of war. So Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and his Saudi counterpart need wisdom as they negotiate the slippery labyrinth that is Middle Eastern diplomacy.