Saudi Arabia Launches Biggest Crackdown on Christians in a Decade


The Washington, D.C. based human rights organization International Christian Concern (ICC) is getting reports of 46 confirmed arrests of Christians

, with some sources citing in excess of 100 Christians arrested. From last Friday through yesterday, Saudi authorities engaged in a major crackdown involving a joint effort of standard police forces and Muttawa religious police. In the last couple of days the raids have spread from the Capital, Riyadh. This is the largest crackdown in several decades in the religiously oppressive country. The crackdown comes in the wake of allegations against the United States for desecrating the Qur'an at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. This is confirmed in reports that during the latest wave of arrests, Saudi authorities have been ransacking houses and destroying any Bibles found in the victims' possession. Last weekend ICC confirmed reports that 8 Christians were arrested and documents naming other area Christians were seized. On Saturday, May 28. 2005 at 8:30 p.m. Chittirical John Thomas (Passport # A9757690), an Indian national, was pulled from work in Riyadh by Saudi Muttawa authorities, dragged to his home, and beaten in front of his maid and 5 year-old son. The Muttawa gathered his Bible and all religious paraphernalia, and took 37 year-old Thomas to the Shemaissy Detention Center. Thomas's wife, who is 5 months pregnant, has not heard from her husband since. In addition to John Thomas, 7 other Indian nationals were arrested in similar fashion and detained for their faith as Christians while they were asleep on Saturday night. Valiakalail Samuel Daniel (Passport # Z1101522), Koil Pillai Vijaykumar (E3188388), Mutham Plackal Mathai Thomas (E2584732), Pathivadathil James George (U3128086), George Matthew (E7881606), Biju Thomas (E4201849), and Georgekutty Thomas (A5717194) are the confirmed names of the others arrested. These arrests followed the detention of Samkutty Varghese's detention outside of his bible study on March 22, 2005. Varghese (Passport # E8421022) possessed the names and numbers of other Christians attending the same fellowship group. ICC has received credible reports that Varghese was sentenced to 10 months in prison along with several lashes. This pogrom-like sweeping of the Christian minority in Saudi Arabia is a great disappointment to the United States' State Department, and shows deficient resolve in enforcing sanctions on "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC). The United States has allowed over 2 months after the deadline for implementing direct action against Saudi Arabia for the CPC status. Now, they only have 10 days left to act under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The inaction of the world's leader in promoting freedom is reprehensible, and risks breaching the line of irrelevance on matters of religious freedom and human rights. The United States and the broader international community need to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for egregious violations of religious freedom. This latest crackdown on Christians is inexcusable and highlights the oppressive regime under which all religious minorities live and work in Saudi Arabia. International Christian Concern is a Washington, D.C. based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department.

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