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Ronaldo makes sign of the cross during soccer game in Iraq

Cristiano Ronaldo podczas meczu w barwach Al-Nassr


Aleteia - published on 08/17/23

World-famous soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo made the sign of the cross after scoring a goal in a country where Christianity is a small, persecuted minority.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a world-famous soccer player from Portugal who has won dozens of awards and trophies throughout his 31-year career. He has played for clubs in Portugal, England, Spain, and Italy.

Earlier this year, he moved to Al-Nassr, a club from Saudi Arabia. In his last match, in the semifinals of the Arab Club Champions Cup, the player scored the goal that gave the club promotion to the finals of this Arab equivalent of the Champions League.

After scoring the goal, the Portuguese player made the sign of the cross. This isn’t a surprise per se, because he declares himself a believer and has shared his faith more than once. There would be nothing spectacular about it, if it weren’t for the fact that he did it in Iraq. The Saudi Al-Nassr club he plays for was facing off against Iraq’s Al Shorta. 

According to Open Doors, an organization that deals with religious persecution, Iraq ranks 18th on the list of countries that persecute Christians. Although the pope’s visit to the country in 2021 was a positive development with lasting effects, problems continue

Moreover, Saudi Arabia, where Ronaldo plays, ranks 13th on that list.

Difficult life for Christians in Saudi Arabia

In the World Persecution Index, the Open Doors organization states:

Most Christians in Saudi Arabia are migrant workers from Asia and Africa. They are often exploited and poorly paid, and face discrimination because of their ethnicity, but also because of their Christian faith. There are also Christians from other parts of the world. Foreign Christians are severely restricted in sharing their Christian faith and in gathering for public worship. Those who do so risk detention and deportation.

Muslims who have converted to faith in Christ must hide their church affiliation. Open Doors elucidates:

Despite the risks, the small number of Saudi Christians is slowly increasing and some are boldly sharing their Christian faith on the internet and Christian satellite TV channels. This has led to serious repercussions from their families and the authorities.

Perhaps the simple but courageous gesture by the Portuguese soccer player will have the effect of increasing the courage of Christ’s followers in both Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

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