Different denominational lines can cause discord in the Christian world. The Muslim world is no different, and friction between its sects is common. Saudi Arabia stands as a major player in the long-standing Islamic chess match.
Significant differences exist within Islamic sects, most notably between the Sunni and Shia. These conflicts stem from ancient beliefs about who would inherit the leadership position after Muhammad died. However, both Sunni and Shia consider Mecca in Saudi Arabia the holiest city in Islam. Sunni is the largest branch of Islam, with 80-90 percent of the world’s Muslims. Shia Muslims, who are Persian, constitute 10-20 percent of the world’s Muslim population and 38 percent of the Middle Eastern population. Sunni Muslims, the more radical fundamentalist branch, dismiss Shia and other forms of Islam as being misguided and impure. Animosity is growing between the two sects.
However, geopolitical alliances within the Arab world go beyond simple religious differences. More importantly now is which countries hold the most political power. Saudi Arabia, the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula, dominates the world’s oil production. Radical Islamists assert their power through acts of terror. Allegedly, they train in Saudi Arabia, though the Saudi royal family denies supporting militant factions. These militant factions attack Saudi Arabia’s Western allies somewhat regularly. Saudi Arabia is a close ally of Israel and the United States. Most other Arabic countries resist Western influence.
Iran’s Shia government and the Gulf States’ Sunni governments have played an increasingly intense political chess match. In May, the King of Saudi Arabia and the Iranian foreign minister to Saudi Arabia met for the first time since the start of the Arab Awakenings. The goal was to ease tensions and work toward peace, especially in regard to Syria. Iran and Saudi Arabia support opposing factions in Syria’s civil war. The Saudi government also threw its political weight with Egypt in June.
Later in June, foreign ministers of the OIC member states gathered in Saudi Arabia. They met due to the rising tide of extremism and volatility in Muslim nations. They discussed a wide range of issues affecting Muslims around the world. Topics included extremism and various conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
In early August, an advisor to the Saudi government requested protection from ISIS. Saudi Arabia asked Egypt and Pakistan for their defense of its borders and religious sites.
Division is inevitable with nations and religions. Can the Arab countries peacefully agree to disagree? Perhaps the Arab world’s chess pieces can move peace through the Arab world.
Pray that Saudi Arabia will seek God’s wisdom in negotiating with its allies as well as its enemies (The Bible, Proverbs 16:7).
Pray that the OIC member states will effectively subdue the militant Islamists and their attacks on innocent people (The Bible, Job 36:16).
Pray that the divide between countries and religious factions will lessen, and that peace will be restored to these troubled lands (The Bible, Leviticus 26:6).