Stories about persecution seem to be dominating international headlines of late. On Tuesday, we told you about four Christian missionaries who were arrested in Benghazi, Libya, on charges that they were proselytizing. And now, Asia News reports that Saudi Arabian officials recently detained 53 Ethiopian Christians after they were caught holding a prayer meeting in a private home.
Among the 46 women and six men taken into custody were three faith leaders who are being accused of attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity — something that is forbidden in a country that only allows for religious practice and expression associated with the Islamic faith. The incident purportedly unfolded on Feb. 8 in Dammam, the capital of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.
“We call on Saudi authorities to treat all those arrested with dignity, and release them immediately as there is apparently no evidence for any offense against them,” said Godfrey Yogarajah, executive director of the World Evangelical Alliance. “Arrest of believers for peacefully gathering for worship goes against the spirit of Saudi Arabia’s promotion of inter-religious dialogue in international fora.”
While two of the Christians who hold residency have been released, Asia News reports that the others will likely be deported. Saudi Arabia continues to crack down on religious minorities, providing little leeway for beliefs that extend beyond the Islamic realm. In its 2012 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom noted the lack of freedom that persists in the country.
“The Saudi government persists in banning all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government’s own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam; prohibits churches, synagogues, temples, and other non-Muslim places of worship; uses in its schools and posts online state textbooks that continue to espouse intolerance and incite violence; and periodically interferes with private religious practice,” the report proclaims.
(H/T: Right Scoop)