“If our nation wants to be the leader to spread freedom around the world we cannot have double standards. Saudi Arabia has been granted human rights religious abuse waivers by our government since 2005. The Ethiopian Christians presently incarcerated by the Saudi government for simply having a prayer gathering is an international abomination. The media may not find reporting about poor third world Christian black workers in Saudi Arabia being jailed unfairly as glamorous celebrity news, but it is news that should be in the headlines,” John Meinhold writes for Fosters.com.
By John Meinhold
4/10/2012 Saudi Arabia (fosters.com) – As I write, many Christians are observing Good Friday. Easter is the holiest season of the Christian faith. With CNN broadcasting the latest insignificant news about Kim Kardashian in the background, I happened to recently stumble on an obscure government document on the Internet from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). It turns out what I read in the USCIRF 2012 Annual Report was one of the most important documents I have read in many years.
USCIRF is tasked with reporting to the president, Secretary of State and Congress on international human rights abuses of religious freedom. Their recommendations are either acted upon or the country is given a waiver.
Why was I doing research on the Internet?
The Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had recently been reported to say it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the (Arabian Peninsula) region.” Pretty shocking news since the Arabian Peninsula encompasses Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen. Furthermore, the grand mufti is the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia and has world influence on Muslims. Yet, an Internet news search showed only the Washington Times and Houston Chronicle posted an editorial condemning his barbaric words. More disappointing is that only Reuters had a news story about archbishops from Russia, Austria and Germany decrying what the Saudi grand mufti said.
The Catholic Bishops Conference in Austria said the grand mufti’s fatwa was “incomprehensible” and demanded an official explanation from Riyadh. They said his words endangered Christians around the world, not just in Arab states.
According to the USCIRF report “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom continue in Saudi Arabia.” The report says, “More than 10 years since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the Saudi government has failed to implement a number of promised reforms related to promoting freedom of thought, conscience, and or belief. The Saudi government … prohibits churches, synagogues, temples, and other non-Muslim places of worship, uses in its schools and posts online state textbooks that continue to espouse intolerance and incite violence, and periodically interferes with private religious practice.”
Furthermore, the report says, “The government continues to prohibit foreign religious leaders from seeking and obtaining visas to enter Saudi Arabia.”
Catholic and Orthodox Christians are especially impacted by this since they need clergy in order to receive the holy sacraments. It is estimated there are about 800,000 Christians in Saudi Arabia. Most are Catholic Filipinos on work visas.
The USCIRF report also says, “On December 15, 2011, approximately 35 Ethiopian Christians were detained for holding a private prayer gathering … Some have alleged physical abuse during interrogations.”
On March 26 a protest led by International Christian Concern took place in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Washington D.C. demanding that King Abdullah release the unjustly jailed Ethiopians. Even with the protest being almost on the doorstep of The Washington Post, I could find not one news story about this on the Internet. Only Tabias, an online magazine for Ethiopian-Americans had coverage about the protest.
If our nation wants to be the leader to spread freedom around the world we cannot have double standards. Saudi Arabia has been granted human rights religious abuse waivers by our government since 2005. The Ethiopian Christians presently incarcerated by the Saudi government for simply having a prayer gathering is an international abomination. The media may not find reporting about poor third world Christian black workers in Saudi Arabia being jailed unfairly as glamorous celebrity news, but it is news that should be in the headlines. Our leaders should be demanding on the floor of Congress that they be released and condemning the Saudi grand mufti for calling for churches to be destroyed in the Gulf region.
The United Nations should be enforcing its charter and doctrines to protect religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.
The world is at serious security risk without sweeping human rights and religious freedom reforms in Saudi Arabia. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”