Those accused of worshipping in homes ordered deported
More than a dozen Christians in Saudi Arabia who were accused by government officials of worshipping in their homes have been ordered deported.
According to a report from International Christian Concern, the Christians will be expelled tomorrow for their part in a home worship service in Taif in April.
The deportation conflicts with the message stated just weeks earlier by Saudi King Abdullah, who called for interfaith dialogue and held a summit in Spain with a representatives from several major religions.
“Deporting Christians for worshipping in their private homes shows that King Abdullah’s speech is mere rhetoric and his country is deceiving the international community about their desire for change and reconciliation,” said Jeff King, the president of ICC.
The report from the Washington-based human rights group said 15 Christians will be deported. Sixteen had been arrested April 25 when a dozen Saudi Arabian police officers raided a home during a prayer meeting.
“The first officer to enter the house after breaking down the main gate pointed a pistol at the Christians and ordered them to hand over their resident permits and mobile phones,” the report said. “The other 11 police followed quickly and started searching the entire house. The confiscated an electronic drum set, an offering box with 500 Saudi Riyal in it ($130), 20 Bibles, and a few Christian books.”
The worshippers initially faced accusations of preaching and singing. “They later changed the charge to holding a ‘dance party’ and collecting money to support terrorism,” the ICC said.
“During the raid, the police mocked, questioned and harassed the Christians for four hours,” ICC said.. “Then they took them to a police station where the head of the station interrogated them. The head of the police then wrote down their ‘statements’ in Arabic and forced the Christians, who are immigrants and not able to read or write Arabic, to sign the statements.”
They were released three days later, and one Christian immediately left the country. The others returned to their work but soon got letters ordered their departures tomorrow, ICC said.
“Three weeks ago, Saudi Arabia hosted an interfaith conference in Madrid, Spain. During the conference that took place from July 16-19, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for reconciliation among various religions,” ICC said.
According to an International Herald Tribune report, King Abdullah’s meeting drew about 200 representatives of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and other religions.
The reporter noted that the meetings had to be held outside of Saudi Arabia, because “the mere fact that rabbis would be openly invited to the kingdom, a country where in principle Jews are not permitted to visit, would have constituted a turning point.”