Christian Leader Trapped Inside Saudi Arabia: Expatriate Christian, Threatened by Islamists, Would Face Persecution at Home Also
06 Feb 2009
Saudi Arabia: February 5, 2009. The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Hagos Woldu [name changed for security reasons],
an expatriate Christian leader in Saudi Arabia, fled from the city of Riyadh on January 28 following threats he received from radical Muslims.
On January 10, Woldu found a note on his van warning him to leave Saudi Arabia or face the consequences. "They [the Islamic extremists] were not happy when I told them that Mohammed is not a prophet," said Woldu in an interview he gave to ICC.
"People who covered their faces started to follow me. They blocked my van on three different occasions," said Woldu. The pressures forced him to quit his job on January 15.
Woldu has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past 24 years and this is not the first time that he has been persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ. In 2005, he and four other expatriates were detained by the Mutaween (Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice), an arm of the government that enforces religious purity. At the time, Woldu and the other four Christians were imprisoned due to their activities in an underground church group in the country. They were released one month later following pressure by Western diplomats.
"I have not stopped telling the truth by preaching the gospel. I preach the gospel to Muslims," said Woldu in explaining why the extremists still want to force him to leave Saudi Arabia.
Woldu is not currently working, and he is unable to leave Saudi Arabia because he has not yet been able to secure a visa to a third country. It is also unsafe for Woldu to return to his own country due to the severe persecution Christians are facing there.
He told ICC that his biggest worry at this time is the safety of his wife and eight children, who are currently living in Cairo, Egypt. His family moved from Saudi Arabia to Egypt in 2007, but the UNHCR failed to give them refugee status. As the bread winner for the family, he is concerned about their current well-being.
"I don't care if I am slaughtered for the sake of the Gospel, but what I am concerned about is my wife and eight children. Please contact UNHCR and ask them to give my family refugee status," said Woldu in expressing his worries about family.
In a message to Christians, Woldu said, "Please contact embassies in Saudi Arabia and ask them to help me get out of the country, and, as a first priority, please help my family."
ICC's Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, said, "We ask the officials of Saudi Arabia to protect the rights of Christians in the country to worship freely. It is hypocritical that Saudi Arabia promotes interfaith dialogue while failing to guarantee freedom of religion at home."