Saudi Arabia Deports 35 Ethiopian Christians For Practicing Their Faith
Washington, D.C. (August 3, 2012) –International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on August 1, Saudi Arabia deported the last of the 35 Ethiopian Christians who were detained for holding an all-night prayer vigil. Saudi security officials assaulted, harassed and pressured the Christians to convert to Islam during their incarceration.
“We have arrived home safe. We believe that we are released as the result of the pressure exerted by ICC and others,” said one of the prisoners speaking to ICC. He also said, “The Saudi officials don’t tolerate any other religions other than Islam. They consider non-Muslims as unbelievers. They are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”
The Christians were detained on December 15, 2011 while holding a prayer service at a private home. ICC was the first organization to break the news of the arrest on December 17. The Saudi officials originally accused the Christians of ‘mixing with opposite gender’ but when pressured by the U.S. officials, they started giving other reasons for the detention, including: being in the country illegally, and engaging in drug and human trafficking.
ICC led the effort to release the Christians by organizing three different protests at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington D.C. and gathering petitions for the release of the prisoners. ICC also brought the plight of the Christians to the attention of the U.S. Congress, the State Department and the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom. After ICC brought the case to their attention, staff members from multiple Congressional offices began calling the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. and holding meetings with Saudi officials to inquire into the situation of the Christian prisoners. The phone calls and the meetings put pressure on the Saudi Arabia to release the prisoners.
ICC’s Jonathan Racho said, “Saudi Arabian officials clearly demonstrated their utter disregard for religious freedom by arresting, mistreating and deporting the Christians for holding a prayer meeting. The Saudis deceive the international community by pretending to promote tolerance among followers of different religious beliefs; however, in reality they don’t tolerate any other religion besides Wahhabi Islam. The international community must pressure Saudi Arabia to respect religious freedom.”