01/03/2013, 00.00
INDIA - SAUDI ARABIA

Indian Christian calls on Saudi Arabia to recognise migrants' religious rights

Nirmala Carvalho
Detained and arrested in 2004 on false proselytising charges, Brian O'Connor appeals for openness. In his view, granting religious rights to non-Muslims would be a "positive change" for the country. A study by the Centre for Development Studies indicates that the children of Indian migrants "grow up confused," which may manifest itself "in rebellion, school absenteeism, drop-outs and substance abuse".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - "Saudi Arabia should grant Christian migrants religious freedom as well as the right to build churches in the country. The public value of religion must be recognised as every human being's right to self-fulfilment," said Brian O'Connor in an appeal made through AsiaNews.

In 2004, the Christian from India was held in a Saudi jail, in chains, tortured for seven months and seven days for alleged proselytising. Released after an international campaign on his behalf to which AsiaNews participated, he said that "recognising this right would be a positive change for the whole country."

In a country that does not recognise or protect any religion other than Islam, "Indian migrants worship in the privacy of their homes," O'Connor said. "However, they are often victims of raids and arrests by the Muttawa, the religious police. It is urgent and essential that Indian Christians and Hindus, as well as other non-Muslim migrants be granted the right to worship freely without discrimination and persecution."

A new study, Migration Report 2013 - Social Cost of Migration, will be presented next Monday in Kochi (Kerala). Written by Irudayan Nayan, from the Centre for Development Studies, the paper was commissioned by the research unit on international migration of the Ministry of Overseas' Indian Affairs. Its focus is on the Indian Diaspora in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

According to its findings, Saudi Arabia continues to be the desired destination among low- and semi-skilled workers from India. However, "In the absence of adequate parental guidance, children grow up confused and this may manifest itself in rebellion, school absenteeism, drop-outs and substance abuse".

The most painful and tangible social cost of migration is in fact the separation of children from parents, the study found, adding that the absence of mothers, in particular, results in the breakdown of traditional care-giving arrangements.

In 2011, at least 289,297 Indians moved to Saudi Arabia seeking employment.

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See also
The infamous Muttawa tortures Christians, says Brian O'Connor
03/06/2005
New false accusations brought in court against O'Connor, an Indian-born Christian
24/09/2004
Brian O'Connor: discrimination and religious intolerance the evils of Saudi Arabia
06/02/2010
Brian O'Connor: "My story, a Christian in a Saudi jail"
25/11/2004
India's Christians elated by O'Connor's release
03/11/2004