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Ethiopian Christians arrested at prayer facing deportation from Saudi Arabia

Country/Region: Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Middle East and North Africa

A group of 35 Ethiopian Christians are facing deportation from Saudi Arabia for “illicit mingling” after they were arrested in a police raid on a private prayer meeting in one of their homes.

Jeddah-4x3.jpg
The Christians were arrested
at a house in Jeddah
Helmut Kunert / CC BY-ND 2.0

The 29 women and six men had gathered to pray at a house in Jeddah on 15 December when police burst in and detained them. The women were taken to Buraiman prison, where they were strip-searched and sexually abused. The men were held at a police station in Jeddah for two days before also being transferred to Buraiman prison. Officers kicked and beat the men and called them “unbelievers”.

Three members of the group reported their ordeal to Human Rights Watch via telephone from prison.

They complained of inadequate medical care and unsanitary conditions at the prison. One of the women is diabetic; she was given one injection in the prison clinic that caused swelling, and she has not been given further medical attention since.

Around ten days after their arrest, some of the Christians were taken to court, where they were made to put their fingerprints to a document without being allowed to read it.

They were told that they were being charged with “illicit mingling” of unmarried persons of the opposite sex, despite Saudi Arabia not having any law that defines this offence. The entire group now faces deportation.

Rights “trampled”

The Saudi government enforces an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, banning the public practice of all un-Islamic religions. In 2006, the government said that it would stop interfering with private worship by non-Muslims, but in reality the mutawaah (religious police) sometimes disrupt and raid private Christian meetings.

More than a million expatriate Christians are thought to be living in Saudi Arabia. There are very few indigenous Christians; all the country’s citizens must be Muslim and conversion to Christianity is punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch said that the Saudi Arabian authorities were “trampling on the rights of believers of other faiths” even while King Abdullah was setting up an international interfaith dialogue centre. The group added: “The Saudi government needs to change its own intolerant ways before it can promote religious dialogue abroad.”

Call to challenge persecution

Barnabas Fund has launched a new campaign, Proclaim Freedom, for 2012 calling on Western governments to put pressure on states such as Saudi Arabia that persecute or condone the persecution of Christians within their borders.

In a written “Confirmation of Policies” document the Saudi government sent to the US government, the former said it would “guarantee and protect the right to private worship for all, including non-Muslims who gather in homes for religious practice” and “ensure that members of the [religious police] do not detain or conduct investigations of suspects, implement punishment, [or] violate the sanctity of private homes”. The government also said it would investigate any infringements of these policies.

Will the United States and other Western governments now hold the Saudi government to account for the apparent violation of this commitment in the case of these Ethiopian Christians?

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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  • Pray for the residents of a mainly Christian village in Borno state, Northern Nigeria, in the aftermath of a horrific attack by Boko Haram militants on 15 February. Ask for God’s comfort for the relatives and friends of the 106 people in Izghe who were gunned down and slaughtered in their houses or in the open as they tried to flee. Pray for strength for the numerous residents who were wounded or whose properties were looted and torched. Pray too for the many Christians who fled into the neighbouring state after the attack, and ask that the Christian community in the North of Nigeria will be preserved in the face of Islamist violence. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Violent attacks by militants from the Islamist group Boko Haram continue unabated in Northern Nigeria. On one horrendous day of violence on 26 January, at least 138 people were killed. A church in Wada Chakawa village in Adamawa state was targeted; the attackers locked the congregation inside and then detonated bombs, shooting and cutting the throats of people who tried to escape. They then went on a four-hour rampage in the village. Later the same day, Kawuri village in neighbouring Borno state was burned to the ground. Boko Haram is fighting to establish an Islamic state, and Christians are among its main targets. Pray that the Nigerian authorities will succeed in containing its insurgency. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give You thanks on this Easter Day for the living hope that You have given us and all Your people through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 1:3). We pray that the prospect of an enduring inheritance and future salvation will encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith, whatever may happen to them. We pray that we too may be sustained by this hope in the sufferings that we experience for the sake of Christ. We ask that the joy and resurrection power of the Lord will give strength and peace to persecuted believers today and every day. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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