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    » 04/10/2006, 00.00

    SAUDI ARABIA

    Catholic priest arrested and expelled from Riyadh



    He was caught unawares while celebrating mass in a private apartment. He was visiting Catholic Indians in the country. Like all other non-Muslims, pastoral care is denied them. There are around one million Catholics in Saudi Arabia.

    Riyadh (AsiaNews) – A Catholic Indian priest was yesterday forced to leave Saudi Arabia. He was discovered by the religious police as he organized a prayer meeting in the lead-up to Easter. Arrested on 5 April, he remained in police custody for four days and on Saturday 8th April he left for India. The practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Meetings held privately in people's homes, among friends, are also banned.

    The priest, Fr George Joshua, belongs to the Malankara rite of Kerala (India). His visit to Catholic Indians in the Saudi Kingdom was planned with his bishop's permission.

    On 5 April, Fr George had just celebrated mass in a private house when seven religious policemen (muttawa) broke into the house together with two ordinary policemen. The police arrested the priest and another person.

    The Saudi religious police are well known for their ruthlessness; they often torture believers of other religions who are arrested.

    AsiaNews sources said there were around 400,000 Indian Catholics in Saudi Arabia who were denied pastoral care. Catholic foreigners in the country number at least one million: none of them can participate in mass while they are in Saudi Arabia. Catechism for their children – nearly 100,000 – is banned.

    Often, for feasts like Easter and Christmas, Catholics plan holidays in the Emirates, Bahrain or Abu Dhabi, where at least for once, they are free to attend mass.

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    See also

    22/06/2005 SAUDI ARABIA
    Riyadh: an Indian missionary accused of proselytism is imprisoned


    09/02/2005 US - VIETNAM - SAUDI ARABIA
    US Commission calls for sanctions against Vietnam and Saudi Arabia for violating religious freedom


    16/07/2008 SAUDI ARABIA - VATICAN
    Inter-religious conference in Madrid wanted by Saudi King Abdallah
    Card. Tauran attends. The meeting aims to highlight dialogue and collaboration between the religions in society, improving the image of Islam. Buddhists, Hindus and Shiites also present. Expectations for glimmers religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.

    04/05/2006 USA – SAUDI ARABIA
    US Congress to take action against Saudi Arabia for violating religious freedom
    China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Vietnam are on US blacklist of severe religious freedom violators.

    26/07/2010 SAUDI ARABIA
    Islamic scholars: if the veil is banned, Muslim women may uncover their face
    Leading Saudi experts have criticized the French government decision, which denies freedom of religion, but agree that Muslim women are "allowed" or "it is better to" show their face when required by the law of the host country .



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