More than 20 Christians were arrested earlier this month for organizing a prayer meeting at a house in Saudi Arabia, where all other religious practices apart from Islam are prohibited. Those arrested, most of them children and women, are now appealing to the United States for help.
Reportedly, the Christian woman and children were arrested at the home of an Indian national, in the city of Khafji, by radical Islamists who belong to the Saudi government’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. No information is available about the Islamists who arrested the Christians. Despite a local newspaper called the Saudi Gazette, which reported the incident this month, the Saudi government has denied any knowledge of the incident.
“Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), who raided the house in the city's Aziziyah neighborhood, arrested 27 people of various Asian nationalities, including women and children, and seized copies of the Bible and various musical instruments,” said the Gazette.
Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were reportedly tipped off by an unidentified Saudi citizen who alleged that an Indian man had converted his house into a church and was involved in suspicious activities. After receiving this information, Saudi officials placed the house under surveillance to verify facts and then carried out the raid. At the time of their arrest, the Christians were found to be involved in certain religious rituals.
“Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy. It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments,” said Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.
Republican Frank Wolf pledged to lobby for those arrested to the United States ambassador in Riyadh as well as to the State Department.
“I hope our government will speak up,” Wolf said.
It is uncertain if Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Saudi Arabia on September 16 to seek support in fighting against Islamic State’s terrorizing stance, raised questions about this particular incident. Shea said Kerry must seek for the Christians’ release, bearing in mind IS’ barbarism that has been displayed over the last few months.
“Such actions are especially dangerous in the current situation, where the world is seeing the rise of extreme Islamist groups in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere,” said Shea. “The West should demand that its strategic ally, Saudi Arabia, release the Christians at once and allow them to pray according to their own faith traditions. Otherwise, Riyadh will appear to be validating the practices of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and Syria.”
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