Urgent Prayer Call For Saudi Arabia Believers
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (MCNS) - An urgent call to prayer and action on behalf of 11 members of the underground expatriate church being held by the religious police in Saudi Arabia for their Christian activities has been issued by Terry Madison, USA President and CEO of Open Doors with Brother Andrew. (Contact information is located at the end of this page)
"Reports have been circulated in the West that 25 and possibly up to 100 believers had been arrested in part of this sweep, but exhaustive investigations by Open Doors' contacts in Saudi Arabia, have not been able to independently confirm this," said Madison.
"Whatever the correct number is, this is a serious situation that demands concerted prayer and immediate action. We have heard that the Saudis are torturing them for information about other believers in the country," added Madison, who was a missionary in the Philippines for many years. "We are taking this situation so seriously because we know that Saudi officials beheaded two Filipino Christians a couple of years ago who were known for holding Bible studies and prayer meetings in a prison. We are not dealing with a government that arrests people and then lets them go with a fine.
"I call upon Christians around the world to engage in an urgent prayer and action campaign for those that have been arrested that they will be freed, but while they are in prison, they will be a clear and loving witness to Jesus Christ."
In addition to praying and sharing this need with church members and small groups, Madison encourages everyone to write to the Saudi Arabian Embassy to protest the treatment of Christians in their country and to appeal for the release of all believers presently imprisoned. It is important that you be tactful but firm; remind the Saudi Ambassador that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as a member of the United Nations, subscribes to Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, which promotes freedom of religion.
It might also be helpful to point out that the nominally Christian nations of the West kindly allow Saudi citizens, and indeed all Muslims, the full freedom to propagate their religion, to worship, construct mosques and disseminate literature. All you are asking for is for a "level playing field."
The crackdown began when police arrested several Filipino Christians and one Dutch believer this month for distributing Bible materials to homes in Riyadh. More Christians have been arrested since then, and members of the underground church are living in fear, a pastor who formerly worked in the country said.
Open Doors, the ministry begun by the Dutch-born Brother Andrew more than four decades ago, says that this latest crackdown is consistent with Open Door's recent placement of Saudi Arabia as the number one nation for Christian persecution in its annual "World Watch" survey of aggression against believers.
A Baptist Press story said that police from the Ministry of the Interior arrested two Filipino men June 6, the day after they participated in a project to distribute 500 packets of Arabic-language biblical materials to homes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city. Planned for some time, the project was logistically choreographed to avoid confrontation. The team hung materials on doorknobs early in the morning and walked away.
"Seven Muttawa police on June 13, arrested a Dutchman, Wilm Den Hartog, and two more Filipinos," said Madison. "They left Den Hartog's wife and three small children in their home, but she has since received harassing phone calls. We understand there have been further interviews since then. Our Open Doors contacts have told us that he has since been able to call his wife and say that he is doing okay."
The Muttawa are related to a branch of the government Ministry of Islamic Affairs and operate as part of the Islamic Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Two days later, Aguilar and another Filipino were arrested. Aguilar is believed to be in a hospital, but it appears she has been tortured to reveal other names, sources say. Christian leaders inside Saudi Arabia say they fear for the lives of the captives and others whose names might be revealed. The more recent arrests have spread beyond the confines of the material-distribution project. The pattern of arrests indicates that intensifying torture of those being held is producing names of other believers, according to the sources. Angelito Hizon, the second person arrested, is known to be tough, strong-willed and faithful. "'Lito' is a leather man. He doesn't fold easily," said a Christian professional who has lived in Riyadh and participated in a fellowship of believers there. "If you're in street fight, you'd want him on your side."
It took a week from the time Hizon was arrested until the next arrests, an indication that police are increasing the amount of pressure on him. Saudi interrogation sessions have historically included brutal beatings, verbal abuse, mental torture -- and constant questions.
"Every (Christian) believer in Arabia is scared," said Wally Magdangal, a Filipino pastor who was tortured and sentenced to die in 1992, then deported to his homeland. The Dutch Embassy has been notified of Den Hartog's arrest, but the Saudi Ministry of the Interior is requiring the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to write a formal letter to request that Dutch officials be permitted to see him, sources say.
Christians fear this delay bodes ill for Den Hartog's well being. Besides Aguilar and Hizon, Filipino captives include Juanito Manalili, Ariel Ordona, Ruben Aguire and Jun Luzon.
Saudi Arabia lives by Sharia law, its interpretation of teachings from two Islamic books, the Koran and the Hadith. Under Sharia, the Bible is forbidden and corrupted material. Muslims who convert to Christianity are sentenced to death. The penalty for evangelism by a non-Muslim is open to interpretation. Appeals from local courts can be made to a three-judge panel and then to the King.
Saudi Arabia and other Islamic nations claim to abide by international standards for freedom of religion, but usually qualify that by saying anyone is free to practice his or her religion as long as they don't attempt to proselytize. The concept that evangelism is part of the practice of the Christian religion is in itself an offense to Muslim Sharia. Underground fellowships of expatriates include no Saudi national believers.
To receive one or a quantity of pre-addressed petition postcards, call the Open Doors office at (949) 752-6600.
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