Saudi Arabia deports 15 Christians

By August 7, 2008

Saudi Arabia (MNN) — The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Saudi Arabia deported 15 Christians on Tuesday, August 5th, for holding private worship meetings in a house in the city of Taif.

On Friday, April 25, twelve Saudi Arabian police raided a house where 16 Christians were holding a prayer meeting. The first officer to enter the house after breaking down the main gate pointed a pistol at the Christians and ordered them to hand over their resident permits and mobile phones. The other 11 police followed quickly and started searching the entire house. They confiscated an electronic drum set, an offering box with 500 Saudi Riyal in it ($130), 20 bibles, and a few Christian books.

The police initially accused the Christians of preaching the Bible and singing. They later changed the charge to holding a "dance party" and collecting money to support terrorism.

During the raid, the police mocked, questioned and harassed the Christians for four hours. Then they took them to a police station where the head of the station interrogated them. The official then wrote down their "statements" in Arabic and forced the Christians, who are immigrants and not able to read or write Arabic, to sign the statements.

After the interrogations, the Christians were incarcerated and held incommunicado. After three days, the Christians were finally released on April 27, 2008 at 8 PM.

Upon their release, one of the Christians permanently departed the country. The others, thinking that their ordeal was over, went back to their daily lives and work. But they soon received letters demanding that they leave the country immediately.

ICC's President Jeff King says this has been typical behavior of Saudi officials. "They'll say, 'We don't want political pressure.' So [once foreign Christians are] arrested, they release them quickly. The next thing you know, the whole group is deported out of the country."

While deportation isn't good, it's far better than what happens to Saudis who come to Christ. "They could be killed" says King. "They would be arrested. They would be in grave danger. And those are the cases, unfortunately, we can't talk about. There's tremendous pressure to convert them back to Islam."

The decision to deport them runs contrary to recent attempts to portray the Saudi kingdom as a beacon of reconciliation among Christians, Muslims, Jews and others. Three weeks ago, Saudi Arabia hosted an interfaith conference in Madrid, Spain. During the conference that took place from July 16-19, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for reconciliation among various religions.

King says this is ironic. "The [Saudi] king is saying that Christians and Muslims need to get along better. Then, look at what's happening at home! This just shows and exposes the heart of Saudi beliefs. They can spend money and spin things, and they can do PR. But what matters is what happens at home."

King says, "Deporting Christians for worshipping in their private homes shows that King Abdullah's speech is mere rhetoric, and his country is deceiving the international community about their desire for change and reconciliation."

While persecution continues in Saudi Arabia, the church is growing. "There is a tremendous hunger for Bibles in the persecuted church," King says. "You could see up to 30 people sharing one Bible. They tear off little pieces, and each person has like one book. One of our big drives is to get Bibles into the hands of these guys. It makes all the difference. I always call it 'spiritual fertilizer.'"

Please pray for the Christians who face deportation. Pray also that Saudi officials will change their decision and allow the believers to continue working in the country. Please call the Saudi Arabian embassy in your country and ask the officials at the embassies to stop deporting the Christians.

If you'd like to donate to ICC's Bible project, click here.

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