Saudis arrest 53 Christians at private worship service

Saudi authorities have continued to persecute christians in the country, in a stark example of the lack of freedom of worship in the Kingdom

by The Commentator on 14 February 2013 14:26


Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested 53 Christians, mostly women, who were attending a worship service in the private home of an Ethiopian in Dammam, the capital of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

The Christians, 46 women and six men, including three church leaders, were arrested at ten in the morning last Friday, a close relative of one of those arrested told the WEA. The three church leaders were produced in an Islamic court in Dammam the same day when authorities alleged they were converting Muslims to Christianity.

Authorities are reported to be considering the release two of the Ethiopian Christians who have residential permits, but the others are expected to be deported.

In December 2011, Saudi authorities arrested 35 christians, 29 of them women, for "illicit mingling," after police arrested them when they raided a private prayer gathering in Jeddah. The detainees were apparently subjected to arbitrary body cavity searches in custody, according to Human Rights Watch.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom stated in its 2012 annual report."The Saudi government persists in banning all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government's own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam; prohibits churches, synagogues, temples, and other non-Muslim places of worship; uses in its schools and posts online state textbooks that continue to espouse intolerance and incite violence; and periodically interferes with private religious practice."

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