(ANS) – Forty Christians were arrested in Riyadh , Saudi Arabia , after attending a Christian service in a private apartment. The group included men, women and children, all of whom were foreigners. The service on April 22 was held in the Thaharat al-Badia neighborhood of western Riyadh , the Saudi capital, and led by a Pakistani Christian, according to information received by ASSIST News Service (ANS) from The Barnabas Fund. Barnabas Fund said the raid took place as the Pakistani Christian was delivering a sermon. The Saudi religious police, the mutawwa, had followed the forty Christians who attended the service, collecting information on their activities. Saudi press reports stated that the apartment was equipped as a church with crosses, Christian pictures and many evangelistic books and cassettes. The service itself had included prayers, preaching and communion. According to Saudi press reports the raid was part of a sweeping police operation in Riyadh , conducted on the orders of Riyadh Governor Prince Salman bin Abd Al-Aziz. Barnabas Fund says that while non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia are supposed to be allowed to practice their faith in their own homes, it is illegal to hold non-Islamic religious gatherings and to promote religions other than Islam. “A police official was quoted as saying the Christians were arrested because they had tried to spread the poison and their beliefs to others. One of those arrested was a Pakistani Muslim who said he had been influenced by their Christian beliefs. At present all forty are being detained while they are investigated. If they are convicted of proselytizing they may face harsh prison sentences followed by deportation,” Barnabas Fund said in its statement.
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