Save Hamoud and Yemane in Saudi Arabia
Dear Friends and Partners,
A few months ago we sent an alert about a young Saudi woman who had been killed by her father after he discovered her conversion to Christianity. On the heels of that incident, a Saudi convert was arrested and a foreign Christian forced into hiding in January. While we receive reports from the Saudi kingdom about such incidents on a fairly regular basis, these two incidents in Riyadh, the capital city, have Christians particularly worried about the direction of Saudi policy even while the kingdom projects a moderate image by sponsoring inter-faith dialogues in the international arena.
On January 13, 2009, Hamoud Bin Saleh, a 28-year old Saudi national, was arrested after posting comments on his blog describing his conversion to Christianity and criticizing the Saudi judicial system. Several years ago, after Hamoud witnessed three Pakistanis convicted on drug charges being publicly beheaded, he became disillusioned with Islamic justice and began researching comparative religions while traveling and studying abroad. As a result of his study, he converted to Christianity and began advocating equal rights for Christians in Saudi Arabia. Hamoud has been arrested previously for nine months in 2004 and for a month in November 2008, at which time he was released for the duration of a Saudi-sponsored inter-faith conference in New York and immediately re-arrested. Hamoud’s blog has now been blocked by Saudi authorities.
In the meantime, Yemane Gebriel, a 42-year old Eritrean house-church pastor who has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 25 years, has been forced into hiding because of threats to his life in three separate incidents last month. On January 10, 2009 he found a note on his windshield saying that he would be killed if he didn’t leave the country. Three days later he was stopped by a member of the religious police, accompanied by a police officer, who asked why he was still in the country and threatened him with unspecified “measures”. Two days after that he was forced out of his van by four masked men who again threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave the country. For about 10 years Yemane led a house-church that he and three others had founded, with about 150 foreigners meeting weekly in his villa. In 2005 he was arrested along with 16 other foreigners, but was released after a few weeks because of diplomatic pressure.
As we have mentioned in earlier alerts, Saudi Arabia is an important western ally in the war on terror. Despite some very public international gestures by the new Saudi king in the name of inter-religious dialogue, the kingdom’s Islamic Shari’ah-based legal system is one of the most repressive in the world. Apostasy (conversion) and blasphemy (insulting Islam or Mohammed) are punishable by death and all public non-Muslim religious observance is prohibited. Even private observance among foreigners, while officially tolerated, is severely restricted and reports of raids on private worship services are not uncommon. The government controls all media and Saudis have no access to Bibles or any non-Muslim religious literature apart from specifically seeking it out on the internet or, like Hamoud, by traveling abroad. Any conversions take place in utmost secrecy and the number of Saudi Christians is impossible to determine.
Saudi Arabia’s “religious police” or “mutawwa’in”, officially known as the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, ensure strict compliance with Islamic rules. The government has reportedly relaxed some of its constraints on criticism of the mutawwa’in and made some attempts to restrain them but abuses continue. In any event, we must not rest before everyone under Saudi jurisdiction, Saudi or foreigner, Muslim or non-Muslim, has full freedom to explore any religious or non-religious beliefs and to freely change their own beliefs and to express them, not only in private but also in public teaching, discussion, or observance.
• for Hamoud Bin Saleh, that he would find strength and comfort in the Lord in the midst of darkness, and that he would be released quickly and proceed to be a strong and courageous advocate for religious freedom and human rights in a closed and repressive society;
• for Yemane Gebriel and his family, who have been living apart since his wife and children were able to relocate to Egypt in August 2007, that they will find courage and comfort in their faith and security from threats of violence and that those who have threatened them would realize the wrong in their actions and begin to seek true peace and justice;
• that the Saudi authorities would recognize the importance of respecting human rights and religious freedom and guarantee their citizens the ability to freely research, question, and change their beliefs as they desire; and,
• that the Saudi people would begin to question and challenge the beliefs that allow such oppression and injustice and that they would discover true freedom in the Prince of Peace.
The Bible teaches that faith without action is dead, so please take action urgently and write (contact details are included below):
• to the Saudi ambassador, demanding that Saudi authorities release Hamoud Bin Saleh ensuring his right to religious freedom and freedom of expression, and that they guarantee both his and Yemane Gebriel’s safety. Encourage Saudi authorities to respect international law and human rights standards by ensuring religious freedom for both foreigners and Saudis in their country; and,
• to your foreign affairs minister or secretary of state encouraging them to raise these issues with the Saudi authorities and to demand Saudi compliance with international human rights standards in general by ensuring religious freedom for all citizens and foreigners in the kingdom and specifically by releasing Hamoud Bin Saleh and guaranteeing his and Yemane Gebriel’s safety. Our need for support in the war on terror is not an excuse to ignore wrongs committed by our allies.
Please remember to send us a copy of your correspondence at: email@example.com
Remember, that the persecuted Christians are dying every day, but they are still smiling. They are in a very deep dark night, but they have the candle of the Lord. The enemy can have a very strong weapon and a very strong army, but we have the Lord Almighty.
“They can kill the dreamer, but they cannot kill the dream” in the Lord’s name.
Be with God and may God be with you.
Rev. Majed El Shafie
President and Founder
One Free World International
El Shafie Ministries
Sources: Compass Direct News and One Free World International
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
201 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 1K6
Tel.: (613) 237-4100; Fax: (613) 237-0567The Honourable Lawrence Cannon
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G2
Tel.: (613) 992-5516; Fax: (613) 992-6802
In the United States:
His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Tel.: (202) 342-3800
Secretary Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Tel.: (202) 647-4000 (Main switchboard)