Published: 00:01 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 26 March 2012
Lent Prayer - Saudi Arabia
Country/Region: Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia
The Saudi government will not allow any un-Islamic religion to be practised in public in their country, according to a tradition from Muhammad. All the country’s citizens must be Muslim, and all non- Muslim places of worship are forbidden. Conversion to Christianity is punishable by death, so the small number of Saudi Christians are forced to practise their faith in extreme secrecy. Members of the mutawaah (religious police) patrol the streets enforcing restrictions on behaviour based on the government’s extreme and puritanical version of Islam, known as Wahhabism. The 2011 uprisings in the Middle East prompted King Abdullah to announce a number of economic and political reforms, but none of them involved religious freedom.
|Muslims walk around the Kaaba in Mecca,
Islam's most sacred site
Image: Wikimedia Commons, omar_chatriwala
Despite international pressure the government has hardly taken any steps to curb the expression of extremist views. School books for 2010/2011 still educate children to hate other religions and sometimes even encourage the use of violence. Some textbooks label Jews and Christians as “enemies of the believers”. Also some government-approved Wahhabi Muslim clerics issue fatwas (religious edicts) and preach sermons that justify violence against Jews and Christians, reportedly sometimes praying for their death.
More than a million expatriate Christians are thought to be living in Saudi Arabia. They are supposedly allowed to worship in private, but in practice the mutawaah sometimes disrupt and raid private Christian meetings. In January 2011 two Indian Christian men, Yohan Nese and Vasantha Sekhar Vara, were arrested after the religious police raided a private home where they were attending a prayer meeting. Officials physically abused them during interrogation and put pressure on them to convert to Islam. A Saudi court sentenced the two men to 45 days in prison, but they were released only on 12 July after six months of confinement. Soon afterwards they returned to India.
This article is taken from
“Praying for the Persecuted Church in Lent 2012” -.