Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RLPB 278. Saudi Arabia: duplicitous, cruel and paranoid

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 278 | Wed 17 Sep 2014

SAUDI ARABIA: DUPLICITOUS, CRUEL AND PARANOID 
By Elizabeth Kendal

The House of Saud portrays itself as a champion of inter-faith dialogue and ally of the West. Yet behind the facade, this same regime sponsors, through its religious establishment, the global dissemination of virulent Salafi / Wahhabi (fundamentalist and puritanical) Islam, i.e. the version of Islam behind al-Qaeda and IS. [These groups diverge over tactics, not goals.] While Saudi Arabia sponsors Islamic jihad and Islamisation globally, it keeps its own state in lock-down with zero tolerance for any challenge, political or religious. Both domestic and foreign policy revolve around preserving the regime which supplies oil to the West and petro-dollars to Islam. There is no religious freedom – not for Saudis, not for poor expatriates and not even for exiles.

FELLOWSHIP RAIDED IN KHAFJI

Virtually all Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure is located in the kingdom's Eastern Province, on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Tensions are always high there as Eastern Province is home not only to the kingdom's long-persecuted Shi'ite minority (who comprise a restive majority in Eastern Province), but to many thousands of expatriate workers, many of whom are Christians. Whilst British, European and American expatriates may gather for worship in chapels inside embassies and military bases, impoverished and abused Christian labourers from Africa and Asia have nowhere to gather for prayer, worship and Bible study except in secret house fellowships, even though such gatherings are illegal.

Arrested: Saudi Gazette
On 5 September religious police from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice raided a house in the Aziziyah neighbourhood of Khafji in Eastern Province, arresting 27 mostly Asian believers, including women and children. Bibles and other belongings were confiscated. The Saudi Gazette posted the news on its Facebook page, triggering a very interesting debate, with many Saudis declaring it ridiculous and hypocritical that Saudi Arabia should deny expatriates the freedom to worship. It is common for Christians in Saudi prisons to receive very harsh treatment from Muslim guards and interrogators who know they can brutalise poor despised Filipino, Indian and Eritrean Christians with impunity. American religious liberty champion Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va) has vowed to press the US ambassador in Riyadh and the State Department to assist the arrested Christians. Please pray.

REFUGEE REPATRIATED FROM NEW ZEALAND

Saudi national Khalid Muidh Alzahrani arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, some five years ago on a Saudi Government scholarship to study English. Some time after the Christchurch earthquake Alzahrani converted to Christianity. Because apostasy (leaving/rejecting Islam) is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Alzahrani (42) applied for asylum in New Zealand. Whilst his application for refugee status was successful, the backlash was fierce. It is well known that Saudi agents are inserted into the student community to ensure no Saudi national brings 'shame' on the kingdom. When a convert is discovered, pressure is first applied to the convert's family, who are tasked with the responsibility of fixing the problem. If that fails then the regime applies pressure on the convert, contacting them directly and threatening to hurt their family back in Saudi Arabia. The regime is even known to use Interpol to track down converts and forcibly repatriate them as criminals.

When Khalid Alzahrani (now known as Daniel) started getting threatening messages from his brother in Saudi Arabia, he knew the situation was becoming dangerous. He continued to receive threats until 31 July, when two men arrived at his council flat in Christchurch and took him away. None of his friends have heard anything from him since. Saudi ambassador, Ahmen Al-Jojani, told the Sunday Star Times that the Saudi consulate provided Alzahrani with a ticket to Saudi Arabia after he 'insisted' on returning to visit his mother. The fact that Alzahrani did not pack, and left a half-eaten meal on the table, indicates otherwise. Interpol has confirmed that Alzahrani has arrived back in Saudi Arabia.

Alzahrani is not the only Saudi convert to Christianity to disappear from New Zealand. In May 2013 a Saudi convert seeking asylum in New Zealand was taken from his home in Auckland by three men -- his brother and two Saudis travelling on diplomatic passports. He had not packed and his phone and wallet were left in his apartment. On that occasion New Zealand officials met the party as they changed planes in Hong Kong. According to lawyer Roger Chambers, the officials asked the convert if he was returning to Saudi Arabia voluntarily. When he replied he was, the officials let the party proceed. Sometime later this convert managed to contact friends in Auckland to report that he had been tortured and threatened with beheading.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --

* the Spirit of God will work powerfully to protect and preserve every Christian prisoner in Saudi Arabia; may they 'rest' in their Lord and experience his promised presence; may the Lord become their 'sanctuary' (promise from Isaiah 8:11-14) and may they soon be released.

* our heavenly Father will protect and preserve every Saudi Christian, be they inside Saudi Arabia or anywhere in the world. 'The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.' (Deuteronomy 33:27a ESV)

* God will intervene to re-direct the hearts of 'kings' so that world leaders who consider themselves Christians and democrats will care less about protecting and defending the House of Saud and more about protecting and defending its victims. 'The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.' (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

* he who owns the whole world (Psalm 24:1) will abundantly bless Arabic-language Gospel ministries with everything they need to keep the life-transforming Gospel streaming into Saudi Arabia and may Christ continue to draw Saudis into his embrace. 'Lift up your heads, O gates . . . that the King of glory may come in.' (Psalm 24:9 ESV)  (Psalm 24)


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE 
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SAUDI ARABIA: DUPLICITOUS, CRUEL AND PARANOID

A repressive, fundamentalist (Wahhabi) Islamic State, Saudi Arabia does not permit religious freedom for Saudis, for expatriate workers, nor even exiles. Whilst Western expatriate workers worship in chapels inside embassies, impoverished and abused Christian labourers from Asia and Africa have nowhere to meet except in private homes (though such meetings are illegal). On 5 September, Saudi religious police raided a house fellowship in Eastern Province, arresting 27 mostly Asian believers. Their situation in prison is perilous. Not even exiles have freedom. When Khalid Alzahrani (42) disappeared in the company of two Arab men on 31 July, he became the second Saudi Christian to be forcibly repatriated to Saudi Arabia from New Zealand in the last 16 months. Please pray for Saudi Christians and Western states who can advocate for them.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012).