03/10/2009, 00.00
INDIA - SAUDI ARABIA

After jail, Christians pray for Saudi king Abdallah

by Nirmala Carvalho
Fr. George Joshua was arrested in 2006 by the religious police, for celebrating Mass in a private residence. In 2007, he founded a group that has been joined by more than 500 people. They are praying for the well-being of the kingdom, and for freedom of religion. The priest invites Christians in India to make a "positive contribution to Saudi society."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Praying for Saudi king Abdallah; for the well-being of the country and for religious freedom; for the Christians of India, who should make "a positive contribution" to the society that welcomes them. In this spirit, Fr. George Joshua, an Indian Catholic priest of the Malankara rite, has created prayer groups that every day, 24 hours out of 24, 7 days a week, alternate Masses, recitation of the Rosary, and meditations for religious freedom and for the prosperity of Saudi Arabia.

In 2006, Fr. George, who is from Kerala, became familiar with the rigors of the Saudi jails: the bishop had sent him to the Arab country to prepare Indian Christians for Easter. The religious police in the kingdom arrested him at the end of the Mass, and put him in jail for four days (see: In a Saudi jail I shared the suffering of the Crucified Christ, says Father George). In Saudi Arabia, it is prohibited to practice any religion except for Islam.

During the spiritual retreat after his experience in jail, Fr. George had a vision of "a chalice cup planted on the map of the Saudi kingdom"; he says that he received a "call" to pray for the country, in which God gave him "the opportunity for an experience" of profound faith. On May 1, 2007, Fr. George founded the Christ Army for Saudi Arabia (CASA), made up of groups that "pray and fast" for the well-being of the Saudi kingdom. As of today, more than 500 people have joined the initiative.

"Our primary prayers are for the king of Saudi Arabia," the priest explains, "and for the prosperity and richness of the Saudi kingdom who so generously welcome tens of thousands of Indian to work there, thus leading to an better lifestyle and improved standard of living in their native India."

Fr. George has talked with Indian nurses who are working in the Saudi kingdom. "75% are Catholics from Kerala. I tell them they should serve their patients with the love of Christ, serve the sick with tenderness and love." He also recalls the many laborers in the factories and industries of Saudi Arabia; they come from a society, that of India, that is "multicultural, interconfessional, and pluralist," and can "make a responsible and positive contribution to Saudi society."

"In Saudi Arabia," Fr. George concludes, "when Christians and our dear Muslim friends interact so closely on a daily basis, each respecting the other as individuals and respecting each other’s religion, it gradually builds up fraternal collaboration. All this will be fulfilled through our prayer cells of CASA."

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