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Home » Archives » News Archives » 2006 » 6/19/06: Saudi Arabia: Arrested: four Christians found praying at home

6/19/06: Saudi Arabia: Arrested: four Christians found praying at home

Jeddah (AsiaNews)

The notorious Muttawa (religious police) have struck Christians in Saudi Arabia once again. According to the Compass Direct agency, on 9 June, 10 police armed with wooden clubs broke into a private residence in Jeddah, arresting four Christians of African origin who were conducting a prayer service. The two Ethiopians and two Eritreans are reportedly still detained in a prison for immigrants in Jeddah.

When the raid of the muttawa took place, more than 100 Eritrean, Ethiopian and Filipino Christians were gathered in the house in Al-Rowaise district in Jeddah. The worshippers invited the police to sit down; the latter waited for three hours until the service was over and then they arrested the four group leaders: Mekbeb Telahun, Fekre Gebremedhin, Dawit Uqbay and Masai Wendewesen. All four except the last are married. Local sources said "some police had already come two weeks earlier but they did nothing then."

A Christian who spoke with the detainees by telephone reported they were "doing fine, with okay morale." But he said he did not know how they were being treated, or whether they were undergoing interrogation. According to local sources, the incident has been reported to consular officials of the Philippines and the United States.

The government of Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religious other than the fundamentalist Wahhabite version of Islam. Mission and any public manifestation like carrying a Bible, a crucifix, a rosary beads and praying in public, are forbidden. The muttawa, known for their ruthlessness and violent torture practices, monitor respect for the ban,.

In recent years, thanks to international pressure, the Saudi kingdom has allowed the practice of other faiths, but only in private. However the religious police continue to arrest, imprison and torture people who practice their religion, even if they do so in private.

In the Saudi kingdom, which has a totally Muslim population, it is not permitted to build places of worship, churches or chapels. There are no exact statistics about the Christian presence, composed largely of migrant workers.