Monday, August 06, 2012

Riyadh deports 35 Ethiopian Christians for praying


29 women, 6 men assaulted while in jail for months after being detained for holding an all-night prayer vigil in Saudi Arabia.

Ethiopian Christian Orthodox worshipers [file]
Photo: Baz Ratner / Reuters

BERLIN – Saudi Arabia deported 35 Ethiopian Christians last week after incarcerating them for over seven months for praying in advance of the Christmas season in December 2011...
International Christian Concern [ICC] wrote on its website that
“Saudi Arabia deported the last of the 35 Ethiopian Christians who were detained for holding an all-night prayer vigil. Saudi security officials assaulted, harassed and pressured the Christians to convert to Islam during their incarceration.”

“We have arrived home safe. We believe that we are released as the result of the pressure exerted by ICC and others,” one of the Ethiopians told ICC.
“The Saudi officials don’t tolerate any other religions other than Islam. They consider non-Muslims as unbelievers. They are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”
On December 15, Saudi authorities raided a private religious function in Jeddah, a city on the Red Sea coast in western Saudi Arabia, and arrested 35 Ethiopian Christian workers. ... the 29 women and six men faced beatings and sexual assault.
...“This incident underscores the troubling reality that there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. The fact is that in Saudi Arabia a person is not free to practice their faith even in the privacy of their own home. While Saudi Arabia strictly bans all public displays of faith that are not Islamic, storming into a private home and imprisoning immigrants exposes the real nature of religious freedom in the kingdom – it doesn’t exist unless you’re a Muslim who practices a government-approved Islamic faith,” Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the Washington- based American Center for Law and Justice, wrote to The Jerusalem Post by email on Saturday.
...“While efforts to protect religious freedom in Saudi Arabia are woefully inadequate, it is our hope that that incidents like this one will call attention to this growing problem in Saudi Arabia and other countries.”

In an email to the Post on Saturday, Ben Cohen, a New York-based journalist who has written extensively on persecution of Christians, wrote,
“The history of relations between the Saudis and the West is a shabby history of collusion with religious intolerance.... In March this year, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, declared that it was necessary to ‘destroy all the churches in the region.’...”
...Cohen, who co-wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal last week on Iran’s persecution of Christians, added, “This week, you have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, ‘Religious freedom is a cherished constitutional value, a strategic national interest, and a foreign policy priority.’ These are fundamentally contradictory messages, and I don’t see that the Saudi monarchy and clerics are remotely sensitive to our standpoint – and they won’t be until we start exercising real diplomatic and economic pressure.”...On ICC’s website, the organization’s Jonathan Racho said,
“Saudi Arabian officials clearly demonstrated their utter disregard for religious freedom by arresting, mistreating and deporting the Christians for holding a prayer meeting. The Saudis deceive the international community by pretending to promote tolerance among followers of different religious beliefs; however, in reality they don’t tolerate any other religion besides Wahhabi Islam. The international community must pressure Saudi Arabia to respect religious freedom.”
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