International (MNN) — China and Russia mention “new world order” after deepening economic ties this week.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed mutual interests during a three-day meeting in Moscow, including a shared aversion to the West. Although it’s strengthening ties with Russia, China claims neutrality regarding the Ukraine war.
“China wants to [claim] they are a peace broker in the world, not only in the Middle East but also with the Ukrainian-Russian war,” MENA Leadership Center’s Fadi Sharaiha says.
“This is a good indicator that the U.S. is losing [influence] in the Middle East, North Africa, and even worldwide.”
When enemies become friends
President Xi’s Moscow trip follows meetings with the leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this month. On March 10, China brokered a deal restoring ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two Middle East countries broke diplomatic relations seven years ago.
“I call it the ‘normalization’ of the relationship between Saudi and Iran. You’re looking at the two different sects of Islam coming together as one. Saudi Arabia is the patronage of the Sunni Muslims, while Iran is the patronage of all the Shiites,” Sharaiha says.
“This (normalization) will impact all aspects: politically, economically, and even financially.”
Restoring Iran-Saudi ties also strengthened the China-Russia bloc. “It’s all connected,” Sharaiha says.
“Russia, China, Iran, Turkey [are] one power. Now, the Saudis, [United Arab] Emirates, and most Middle Eastern Arab countries are joining them. This is huge.”
The Iran-Saudi deal could send ripple effects throughout the region. “The Middle East is very much connected,” Sharaiha says.
“Hopefully, this (normalization) will provide more peace to the country of Lebanon, where you have tension between the Sunnis and Shia [communities]. Iraq is a Sunni-Shiite country. This (normalization) will also impact whatever is happening in Syria.”
How do these developments affect Christians? First, many of these countries are already the world’s most difficult places to follow Jesus. Current geopolitical changes probably won’t change this reality.
However, “at any point, things could go south [regarding the alliances], and you never know what would happen,” Sharaiha says. Christians often become scapegoats for societal downfalls.
“We need to stay vigilant and prayerful for Christians in the MENA (Middle East North Africa region).”
Second, political alignments do not always correlate to religious persecution. Even though believers face persecution in nearly all countries in question, diplomatic changes may not worsen the harassment Christians face.
“Christians are not a threat at this point, so I don’t think – right now – this [will] impact them directly. But we need to wait and see” how the Iran-Saudi normalization advances, Sharaiha says.
“One: is this normalization genuine? Two: to what [extent] are they going? Three: we need to know what level it is – political? Economic? Social? This is very important.”
In the header image, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping meets with President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the official welcoming ceremony in the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow on March 21, 2023. (Wikimedia Commons)