Pak Hindu girl states in supreme court abduction and forced conversion to Islam *Europe bishops slam Saudi fatwa against Gulf churches

March 29, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, March 27 2012: The Hindu community in Pakistan’s Sindh province have expressed happiness that their claims about a teenaged Hindu girl, Rinkle Kumari had been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam, gained credence during a Supreme Court hearing into the case on Monday.”The fact that she told the judge that she wanted to go with her parents has vindicated our stance,” Ramesh Kumar the chief patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council said.The kidnapping and forced conversion case of Rinkle Kumari has served as a catylst to unite the Hindu community in Pakistan with the loudest protests coming from Sindh and its capital city, Karachi which have the largest Hindu population in Pakistan.

The court after the hearing was adjourned ordered that Rinkle be sent to the Darul Aman (women shelter) and announced April 18 as the next date of hearing.

Rinkle was allegedly kidnapped from the small town of Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki district a month ago by a Muslim landlord’s son backed by a group of religious leaders.

The statement Rinkle registered in front of the court has brought the exchange of salvos between the Hindu community and what one Hindu leader called “society at large” to an end.

Rinkle’s maternal uncle Raj Kumar said even the girl was first afraid she would not get justice in a Muslim country.

Amarnath Motumal of the Pakistan Hindu Panchiyat said the Rinkle case was a very important one as cases of kidnapping and forced conversions of Hindu girls was common in the Sindh province.

He said Rinkle had shown courage in telling the truth and exposing those behind the whole episode.

“She was crying when she was being taken away to the Darul Aman in the police van and kept on repeating she wanted to go with her parents. But we undertstand that the court has sent her to the Darul Aman for security reasons,” he said.

– persecution.in

Europe bishops slam Saudi fatwa against Gulf churches

 

March 26 2012: Christian bishops in Germany, Austria and Russia have sharply criticized Saudi Arabia’s top religious official after reports that he issued a fatwa saying all churches on the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed.

In separate statements on Friday, the Roman Catholic bishops in Germany and Austria slammed the ruling by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh as an unacceptable denial of human rights to millions of foreign workers in the Gulf region.

Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk, head of the Russian Orthodox department for churches abroad, called the fatwa “alarming” in a statement on Tuesday. Such blunt criticism from mainstream Christian leaders of their Muslim counterparts is very rare.

Christian websites have reported Sheikh Abdulaziz, one of the most influential religious leaders in the Muslim world, issued the fatwa last week in response to a Kuwaiti lawmaker who asked if Kuwait could ban church construction in Kuwait.

Citing Arab-language media reports, they say the sheikh ruled that further church building should be banned and existing Christian houses of worship should be destroyed.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Bishops Conference, said the mufti “shows no respect for the religious freedom and free co-existence of religions”, especially all the foreign laborers who made its economy work.

“It would be a slap in the face to these people if the few churches available to them were to be taken away,” he said.

Sheikh V/s King?

At least 3.5 million Christians live in the Gulf Arab region. They are mostly Catholic workers from India and the Philippines, but also Western expatriates of all denominations.

Saudi Arabia bans all non-Muslim houses of prayer, forcing Christians there to risk arrest by praying in private homes. There are churches for Christian minorities in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.

The bishops conference in Austria, where Saudi King Abdullah plans to open a controversial centre for interfaith dialogue, demanded an official explanation from Riyadh.

“How could the grand mufti issue a fatwa of such importance behind the back of his king?” they asked. “We see a contradiction between the dialogue being practiced, the efforts of the king and those of his top mufti.”

In Moscow, Archbishop Mark told the Interfax news agency he hoped that Saudi Arabia’s neighbors “will be surprised by the calls made by this sheikh and ignore them”.

The Catholic Church has urged Muslim states in recent years to give Christian minorities in their countries the same freedom of religion that Muslims enjoy in Western countries.

There are few Orthodox Christians in the Gulf region, but the Moscow Patriarchate – which was mostly silent during the decades of Soviet communism that ended in 1991 – has become increasingly vocal in defending the rights of Christians around the world.

Bishop Paul Hinder, who oversees Catholic churches in the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yeman, told Catholic news agency KNA that the fatwa had not been widely publicized in Saudi Arabia. “What is worrying is that such statements have influence in part of the population,” he said.

– reuters

Saudi Grand Mufti calls for Gulf churches to be destroyed

March 17, 2012 by  
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Egypts copts at a service

Egypts copts at a service

Saudi Arabia, March 16, 2012: Christians across the Middle East are expressing anger and frustration after the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia said it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” In Cairo and Beirut, the anger was loudest, but also through their calls were gestures of tolerance.

“I mean from a regular, end of the street mosque, this stuff happens all the time, but for the Grand Mufti of a country to say it is simply shocking,” Beirut resident Hani told Bikyamasr.com.

The mufti’s statements had followed Kuwait’s move to ban churches from being constructed in the country.

Ironically, the Saudi religious leader’s comments come only months after Saudi Arabia partnered with Switzerland on an institute of tolerance. At the time, many observers called the move “unsubstantiated” in reference to Saudi’s ultra-conservative Islamic views.

Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, stressed that since the tiny Gulf state was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, it was necessary to destroy all of the churches in the country, Arabic media have reported.

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric made the comment in view of an age-old belief that only Islam can be practiced in the region.

According to religious scholars, however, even during the Prophet Mohamed’s time, Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their faith openly and freely. Christians in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan largely have open access to churches and places to pray, although regulations in Egypt have been condemned by Christian leaders and activists.

“What we see with this is the turn toward ultra conservatism in the region,” said Egyptian Coptic Christian Noha, adding that “what we need to do now is bring together people and show this mufti that us Christians and Muslims can live and share the same street. And that it is a right granted by Islam for others to pray in their own place.”

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia is the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom. He is also the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.

A Kuwaiti parliamentarian said last month he wanted to ban the construction of churches and non-Islamic places of worship in the Gulf state.

MP Osama Al-Munawer announced on Twitter he planned to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country. He later clarified that existing churches should remain but the construction of new non-Islamic places of worship should be banned.

– bikyamasr

Ethiopian Christians at prayer meet face deportation from Saudi

February 11, 2012 by  
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JeddahSaudi Arabia, February 02, 2012: A group of 35 Ethiopian Christians are facing deportation from Saudi Arabia for “illicit mingling” after they were arrested in a police raid on a private prayer meeting in one of their homes.  The 29 women and six men had gathered to pray at a house in Jeddah on 15 December when police burst in and detained them. The women were taken to Buraiman prison, where they were strip-searched and sexually abused. The men were held at a police station in Jeddah for two days before also being transferred to Buraiman prison. Officers kicked and beat the men and called them “unbelievers”.

Three members of the group reported their ordeal to Human Rights Watch via telephone from prison.

They complained of inadequate medical care and unsanitary conditions at the prison. One of the women is diabetic; she was given one injection in the prison clinic that caused swelling, and she has not been given further medical attention since.

Around ten days after their arrest, some of the Christians were taken to court, where they were made to put their fingerprints to a document without being allowed to read it.

They were told that they were being charged with “illicit mingling” of unmarried persons of the opposite sex, despite Saudi Arabia not having any law that defines this offence. The entire group now faces deportation.

Rights “trampled”

The Saudi government enforces an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, banning the public practice of all un-Islamic religions. In 2006, the government said that it would stop interfering with private worship by non-Muslims, but in reality the mutawaah (religious police) sometimes disrupt and raid private Christian meetings.

More than a million expatriate Christians are thought to be living in Saudi Arabia. There are very few indigenous Christians; all the country’s citizens must be Muslim and conversion to Christianity is punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch said that the Saudi Arabian authorities were “trampling on the rights of believers of other faiths” even while King Abdullah was setting up an international interfaith dialogue centre. The group added: “The Saudi government needs to change its own intolerant ways before it can promote religious dialogue abroad.”

Call to challenge persecution

Barnabas Fund has launched a new campaign, Proclaim Freedom, for 2012 calling on Western governments to put pressure on states such as Saudi Arabia that persecute or condone the persecution of Christians within their borders.

In a written “Confirmation of Policies” document the Saudi government sent to the US government, the former said it would “guarantee and protect the right to private worship for all, including non-Muslims who gather in homes for religious practice” and “ensure that members of the [religious police] do not detain or conduct investigations of suspects, implement punishment, [or] violate the sanctity of private homes”. The government also said it would investigate any infringements of these policies.

Will the United States and other Western governments now hold the Saudi government to account for the apparent violation of this commitment in the case of these Ethiopian Christians?

– barnabas team

Jailed Indian Christians released after six months in Saudi Arabia

July 30, 2011 by  
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Jailed Indian Christians released after six months in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Two Indian Christians who were arrested in Saudi Arabia recently have arrived back in the country after six months of confinement.

Vasantha Sekhar and Nese Yohan were back in their state on Sunday, fourteen days after Saudi officials released them, according to BosNewsLife.

Members of a Pentecostal congregation, Sekhar and Yohan were arrested and beaten on charges of proselytizing in January, 2011.

Both received 45-days of “pre-trial detention” on charges of attempted Christian conversion. They were later moved from the police station to a central jail in the capital Riyadh.

Local Christians believe the January raid and the arrests that followed were to keep believers from practicing Christianity privately in their home.

During the raid, Saudi authorities reportedly confiscated Bibles, Christian literatures, sound equipments and musical instruments. They also painted verses from Koran on the walls of the apartment

Talking with his pastor back in India, Sekhar said that he was pressured to convert to Islam, but that he had refused. “If I have to die for my God, I will die for him here,” Vara said.

Following his arrest, Vara’s employer returned his passport making it clear that his job was no longer available.

“These two Christians have faced false charges and false evidence,” advocacy director of International Christian Concern (ICC), Logan Maurer, earlier commented.

“The Saudi government continues to engage in an array of severe violations of human rights as part of its repression of freedom of religion,” he noted.

Saudi Arabia has a long history of cracking down on Christians. In 2008, 16 Indian workers were allegedly arrested and then released after three days. In 2010, eight left the country of their own accord and three of the remaining eight were issued deportation orders, according to ICC.

About 7 million foreigners work in Saudi Arabia, of which an estimated 1.5 million are Indian nationals. Workers often face torture, forced confessions and unfair trials when they are accused of crimes.

– christiantoday

Saudi releases two Indian Pentecostals

July 26, 2011 by  
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Riyadh Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – Two Indian Christians of a thriving Pentecostal house church in Saudi Arabia were back in their home country Sunday, July 24, after they were unexpectedly released by Saudi officials from an overcrowded prison, a church official confirmed to Worthy News. Vasantha Sekhar Vara, 28, and Nese Yohan, 31, who are members of the Riyadh-based ‘Rejoice in the Church of the Lord’ congregation, were detained in January while organizing a Bible study group in one of the apartments where their 70-strong church of mainly Indian expat workers gathered, Worthy News reported earlier. Both devoted believers soon received 45-days of “pre-trial detention” on charges of attempted Christian conversion, also known as “proselytizing”, the church said. They were later moved from the police station to a notorious central jail in Riyadh, the capital, where they were held for months without trial, Worthy News learned. Yet, “On July 12 they were released by authorities and send back to India,” said a church elder, whose name is known to Worthy News. Worthy News did not identify the official, citing security concerns as his church has come under pressure to halt its services. Additionally, homes of church members have also been raided by Saudi security forces, according to a witness and pictures seen by a Worthy News’ reporter.

PERSONAL BELONGINGS

It was not immediately clear if and when the released men would receive back personal belongings. “Saudi religious police and other police also confiscated Bibles and other christian literature as well as the church’s sound installation and instruments, such as guitars, during the [January] raid,” the elder explained recently in one of several conversations. “They even broke furniture, suit cases, and painted what I believe were Koran verses on the walls” of the apartment where the church met, he added. However, the elder called their release “a happy end” and “a result of prayers”, after Worthy News was approached by the church to publish their case. “The world should know about their plight,” the elder said earlier this year. “Praise the Lord, God gives us victory,” he added this weekend. Their freedom followed often difficult and frustrating negotiations, Worthy News established in recent months. Those involved in the talks described how the Christian men were “crying when we met each other in the prison facility.” The elder said in an interview with Worthy News that the Christians had been forbidden to openly pray or read the Bible. “Our brothers’ head hair was shaved and they looked very thin.” He said they didn’t receive enough food. Yohan was reportedly coughing amid concerns about Tuberculosis, but he was allegedly denied medical treatment.

BARELY SLEEPING

For months, the church official said, the two young men could barely sleep in the overcrowded jail. They were “the only known Christians there imprisoned for their faith,” in the detention facility. “The other inmates are criminals.” In India, Vara’s pastor, Ajay Kuma Jeldi, explained earlier that Vara had told him by telephone that he had been pressured in prison to convert to Islam, but had refused. “If I have to die for my God, I will die for him here,” Vara reportedly said. The return to India ended a long wait for families back in India, who the elder said were “very concerned about our brothers.” Pentecostal church members are often referred to as “brothers” or “sisters” in reference to Biblical teaching that those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are children of God, the Heavenly Father. Despite threats of new arrests, the church elder said his congregation continues worshiping in different locations, and even baptizes new believers. “We have to continue to praise the Lord, what else can we do? This is a lively church. There is also an interest among people of other religions to attend our services.”

STRICT NATION

Rights groups say Saudi Arabia, a strict Islamic nation, has a long history of cracking down on Christians. In 2004, 28 Indian workers were reportedly arrested for practicing Christianity. The charges were eventually dropped, but in 2010 brought up again leading to the deportation of one worker, while another person was arrested, according to rights investigators. In another case, 16 Indian workers were allegedly arrested in February 2008, and then released after three days. In 2010, eight left the country of their own accord and three of the remaining eight were reportedly issued deportation orders and expelled. Saudi authorities have denied human rights abuses and recently urged political activists not to repeat pro-democracy demonstrations that have engulfed other Arabic nations. The Middle East nation of over 26 million people is officially 100 percent Muslim, but as in other Arabic countries, there have been reports of a growing interest in Christianity in Saudi Arabia, where many foreigners are Christians.

– Worthy News