» 06/09/2004 SAUDI ARABIA Persecution, prison and torture for Christians (profile)
21,6 million people live in Saudi Arabia. 93.7% of them are Muslim and only 3.7% are Christians. Almost all the Christians are foreign people. Catholics are just 900.000.
There is no religious freedom at all in the country. Any kind of public activity, such as possessing a Bible, wearing a crucifix or pray, is strictly forbidden. In too many cases Christians are persecuted, arrested and tortured. In April 2001 two people from the Philippines were arrested for worshipping Christ in their own house. They had to spend one month in jail after being brutally whipped. In May 2001, 11 Christians were arrested for praying together in a private house. In summer 2001, 13 Christians were arrested in Jedda, tortured ad whipped in the presence of the other prisoners. At the present moment, there are no priests in Saudi Arabia. The last one, an American priest, was forced to leave the country in 1985.
Christians constitute the biggest non-Muslim group in Saudi Arabia. They are also well organised in prayer groups and Bible studies groups, especially in the main cities such as Riyadh, Jiddah, Al Jubayl and Damman. This is why they have become the favourite target of Saudi authorities. Last October two Christians from Egypt were arrested for praying in their own house. Prince Sultan Abdul Aziz Al-Saud made some pressure on the authorities and obtained their release. Participation to Christian meetings is quite dangerous. Christians have to be extremely careful, especially when they communicate the dates and places of the meetings. Furthermore, possession of non-Muslim material, such as rosaries, crosses, Bibles, etc., leads to the arrest by the Muttawa'in, the Saudi religious police. Prohibition of professing any other religion than Islam is grounded on the belief that Saudi Arabia is holy ground. As a matter of fact, the holiness of the two cities of Mecca and Medina is extended to the rest of the country. Accusing people of preaching Christ is a common way to eliminate political dissidents.
Saudi Arabia is ruled by a hereditary monarchy which is grounded on the fundamentalist principles of Wahabi Islam. The government of the country is built on the principles of shari'ah. The Islamic law establishes the nature of the State, its goals and responsibilities, as well as its relationship with the people. Residents who are not Muslim are under the rule of the shari'ah as everybody else.