Persecution of Christians grows under new king Abdullah

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - With the death of King Fahd and the arrival of King Abdullah, the persecution by the Saudi Kingdom of believers of religions other than Islam, especially Christians, is on the rise.

Sources close to AsiaNews in the Saudi capital have confirmed that the religious police, the Muttawa, has raided the homes of foreigners, especially suspect homes (i.e. those where Christians live). This has forced many groups, who used to meet in the privacy of their home to pray, to stop this activity. Furthermore, fear is such that people have stopped meeting out of fear that the police might link them to one another. Indians are particularly targeted. In the last few months, nine Indians were arrested for illegal religious activities.

According to Indo-Asia News, things have become so tense that India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia sent a circular to Indian nationals living in the country warning them that the number of Indians in detention for engaging in religious activities was growing. He told them not to organise prayer meetings in private homes or preach in any way. He also advised his government to warn all those leaving for Saudi Arabia to leave religious books, Bibles, photos, or icons behind.

In a list prepared by the international organisation Open Door, Saudi Arabia comes second only to North Korea in terms of anti-Christian persecution.

The Saudi government has banned any religious practice other than Wahhabi fundamentalist Islam. Any missionary activity or public expression of faith (having Bibles, wearing a crucifix, holding a rosary, praying in public) is outlawed.

The religious police, well-known for its violence and torture, makes sure that the ban is enforced.

Under international pressure, the Saudi monarchy had in the last few years allowed people to practice their religious beliefs in the privacy of their homes. But, the Muttawa did not heed this toleration and continued to arrest, jail and torture people whose only crime was to practice religions other than Islam in private.

Although it persecutes non Muslims, Saudi Arabia has been recruiting skilled foreign labour for its economy. And only recently has Riyadh promised a 15-year tax holiday to attract foreign capital to invest in its railway, desalination plants, power plants and new industrial zones.