At least 27 Christians, arrested at a prayer meeting in Saudi Arabia, need the help of the United States government, says one U.S. lawmaker who plans to rally the State Department to come to their aid.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, told Fox News he plans to press the U.S. ambassador to Riyadh and the whole State Department to help the arrested Christians.
“I hope our government will speak up,” he said.
The group of roughly two dozen Christians was arrested Friday in the city of Khafji, according to the Saudi Gazette. They are not American citizens and are described as being of various Asian nationalities. Reports differ as to the group’s total number and its make-up. Some say those arrested were all men, while others indicate the group was made up of men, women and children. It is believed that about 27 people were arrested.
Saudi authorities stormed the house where the group was allegedly worshipping after neighbors reported occupants had converted the home to a church. Everyone in the home was arrested and numerous Bibles and musical instruments were reportedly confiscated.
“Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy,” said Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, “It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments.”
The International Business Times reports freedom of religion is not granted in Saudi Arabia despite recent outreach attempts by the country’s King Abdullah.
The recent incident sparked debate on the Saudi Gazette’s Facebook page.
“It is forbidden to practice your religion in the kingdom,” one user named Moamar Amer said. “Just pray silently in your room no need to organize or to attend a gathering by group of people to preach. To the non-Muslims, if you can't follow the rules, better leave the kingdom.”
“We have to respect other's religions and sense of equality should exist,” said Mustafa Arif. “Never did Prophet Muhammad forbid any churches or Jewish shrines to exist … this move is strictly wrong and it is extremism ... it distorts the image of true Islam.”
The status of those arrested is unknown. A court date for the group has not yet been reported.