Saudi Arabia’s top Muslim cleric called on Tuesday for the destruction of all churches in the Arabian Peninsula after legislators in the Gulf state of Kuwait moved to pass laws banning the construction of religious sites associated with Christianity.
Speaking to a delegation in Kuwait, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who serves as the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, said the destruction of churches was absolutely necessary and is required by Islamic law, Arabic media reported.
Abdullah, who is considered to be the highest official of religious law in the Sunni Muslim kingdom, also serves as the head of the Supreme Council of Ulema (Islamic scholars) and of the Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing of Fatwas.
Last month, Osama Al-Munawer, a Kuwaiti member of parliament, announced his plans to submit a draft law calling for the removal of all churches in the country, according to the Arabian Businesses news site. Al-Munawer later clarified that the law would only apply to new churches, while old ones would be allowed to stay erect.
Christians arrested at a prayer meeting in Saudi Arabia is the continuing persecution of those that follow Christ Jesus worldwide, but especially in Muslim countries right across the middle east.
These countries and people are doing everything in their power to stop the advance of the message of the kingdom of God. And the salvation through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. They understand completely that when people are set free, they are free indeed. They do everything in their carnal being to try and stamp out the Good News being preached.
We see the same in the Gospels where no matter how many miracles were done, or what Jesus spoke directly to the religious sects of the day, they sought to put him to death. The only reason they did this was to protect their own positions, kingdoms and power that they had over the people of that time.
Saudi Arabia’s continued persecution of those following in “the way” of Jesus of Nazareth is for the exact same reason. Anyone who does not follow their ideology, or preaches the “truth of all things”, do not worship their God—which Christians believe to be false become a danger to their kingdom and to their hold on power, therefore they will persecute them even unto death.
We are seeing the worst of this behavior coming out of the Middle East, but those who live in countries ruled by a thing called democracy, persecution of those walking in the steps of Christ Jesus are starting to rear its head in many forms.
A few examples include not allowing you to speak about your faith in your workplace, forbidden to bless people publicly, or told you do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work. All of which are the thin edge of the wedge to further persecution and possible imprisonment and in some cases physical death of the Lord’s followers in western governed countries.
Recently in New Zealand, we saw Saudi agents allegedly involved in covert operations whereas they forcibly repatriated three converts from the Muslim faith to Christianity back to Saudi Arabia.
This story should be making headlines in New Zealand, but it has been carefully controlled so that it does not interfere with the countries elections today, 20th September 2014.
It is a story I will follow up after the election and will continue to do so until someone has the courage and fortitude to seek the truth in these circumstances— a country like Saudi Arabia thinking it can freely persecute Saudi converts to Christianity within another countries sovereign borders such as New Zealand.
Continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in these lands to ask the Lord to strengthen them for the trials they are to face and to intervene personally in all their lives, so their persecutors see we serve a living God who is coming back for His people and to bring in His Kingdom upon this earth.
VOP note: For those who argue that Christians in the West are not persecuted, we have been told by those in areas of severe persecution that we are seeing the beginning of what may lead to the same they are suffering today. They pray for us and tell us to stay alert. By no means are we diminishing the suffering of those under extreme persecution. Believers in the West do not suffer equally, nor should we imply that we do. But we will continue to chart the growing animosity towards Christians in all nations, including those in the West.
Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which he helped establish in 1998 as the author of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The commission was last reauthorized in September 2011.
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government advisory body charged with monitoring the status of the freedom of religion or belief abroad and providing policy recommendations to the president, Secretary of State and Congress.
“Religious freedom is America’s first freedom, and a vitally important human right enshrined in international law,” Wolf said. “It should be a bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. Too often that is not the case.”
“The Commission plays an invaluable role in giving an unvarnished picture of religious freedom violations the world over,” Wolf continued. “It is well respected on both sides of the aisle for its thoughtful analysis and policy recommendations, and its commissioners are regularly called upon to provide expert testimony at congressional hearings and briefings. Simply put, the commission’s research informs the work of many in foreign policy-making circles.”
As recent as April 30, 2014, the USCIRF released its annual report which documented religious freedom violations in 33 countries and made a number of policy recommendations, including that 16 countries and recommended that the State Department add eight more nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” defined under law as countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. USCIRF also recommended that the following eight countries be re-designated as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. for particularly severe violation of religious freedom. The report also examines U.S. international religious freedom policy and recommends way to strengthen U.S. engagement and promotion of religious freedom.
Wolf said he looked forward to swift passage of this critical legislation.
Representative Wolf deeply cares and has worked diligently to protect the human right, Freedom of Worship for all people in the world.
He has long believed that the United States has an obligation to speak out for religious freedom, often referred to as the “first freedom.” Recognizing that religious freedom was often sidelined in our bilateral relations and diplomatic engagement with other countries, in 1998, he authored the International Religious Freedom Act, which created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and established the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department headed by an ambassador-at-large. This was a critical first step in integrating religious freedom into our broader foreign policy, but he says “Much remains to be done.”
“Sadly, religious freedom advocacy has never been more needed. A landmark report on religious freedom, released by the Pew Forum in 2009, found that “nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities. Pew has done subsequent studies on the issue and it’s 2014 report found that incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in the baseline year of the study.”
“If the international community fails to speak out and advocate for those whose basic human rights are being trampled, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance are bleak.”
In January 2013 I reintroduced bipartisan legislation to create a special envoy within the State Department to advocate on behalf of vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.
In countries like Iraq and Egypt, ancient Christian communities are being driven from the lands they have inhabited for centuries. In Iran, Baha’is are imprisoned and in some cases executed simply because of their faith. In Pakistan, Ahmadi graves are desecrated. In Afghanistan, a country where America has sacrificed greatly in both blood and treasure, the most basic right to freedom of religion or belief is not recognized in the constitution. This is but a snap shot of the grave challenges facing these communities.
In January 2011 following a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing during which sobering testimony [was heard] about the challenges facing religious minorities in Iraq and Egypt, Wolf introduced the special envoy, bill – along with Democrat Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who is of Armenian and Assyrian heritage. The hearing predated the so-called “Arab Spring.” But arguably, the dramatic changes in the region have only made these communities more vulnerable.
Over 20 special envoy posts exist to protect a range of groups and interests, but none is dedicated to the plight of Middle East religious minorities.
On September 18, 2013 the House again overwhelmingly passed the Special Envoy vote by a vote of 402-22, but it has languished in the Senate.
Wolf is actively working to press for swift Senate action. Each day that passes without a dedicated special envoy to advocate for these besieged religious communities, America’s first freedom, religious freedom, is under assault around the globe.
“I renewed my efforts in the 113th Congress to press for passage of this important legislation and to mobilize faith leaders in the West to advocate for these imperiled communities. In January I sent a letter to more than 300 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the West, calling for them to use their influence to speak out on behalf of the persecuted Church around the globe, specifically in the Middle East.”
On Wednesday, the Christian leaders joined forces to call for an end to the silence over persecuted Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Rep. Wolf has regularly met with beleaguered Christians from this part of the world. He said, “Their stories are eerily similar: believers kidnapped for ransom; churches–some full of worshipers–attacked; clergy targeted for killing. In the face of this violence, Christians are leaving in droves.”
In countries where Christians must deal with harsh persecution, many are silenced by fear and abuse. The oppressors wish to hide the atrocities from the international community. Those standing up for religious rights and revealing the abuse are threatened to be silent or face severe persecution—death threats, pressured to convert to Islam, beaten, tortured, shot at and even lose their lives. It is not uncommon for them to be fired from their jobs when the employer is pressured to do so by the persecutors. And to further strike fear, their families likely experience all of the above.
The growing radicalism in these countries has forced many religious minorities to live in fear. In Pakistan, where false blasphemy charges have escalated and are abused, Christians asks us, “What has happened to humanity and what have we done to deserve such treatment?” (John 15:18, John 15:20) Simply being in disagreement with the prophet of Islam can wrongfully be proclaimed as blasphemy, denying their freedom of worship. As seen in recent cases, subjecting them to possible death sentences has also intensified. Too often and now more frequently, Pakistani citizens trying to make a difference by promoting peace and religious equality are forced to flee the country to spare their lives and that of their families. While Pakistan loses one more of the brave few willing to stand up and be a voice for Christian rights and that of other religious minorities.
In the Bible there is much written about the oppressed and persecuted. Jesus had more to say about the poor than any other group of people. He had great concern for this critical issue and taught us that we should too. As American Christians, if we are earnest about our faith, then we should be compelled to aid the oppressed in the world. Being blessed by God living in a nation of great freedom, should we not use this gift and ability to be a voice for those who don’t?
VOP and persecuted Christians appreciate the work of Rep. Wolf. May the Lord bless him in his efforts.
Engage and inform others on the topic of Christian persecution. And get them praying for our suffering brethren!
Ethiopian migrants pushed to the edge?
This attack comes following an operation by Saudi officials to expel all illegal immigrants from the oil rich nation. Since the operation began early in November, there are reports that about 3 Ethiopian nationals have been killed and many others gravely abused. Ethiopians across the world have held protests in the past two weeks, rebuking the Saudi government’s clamp down. The Ethiopian government is reportedly in the process of repatriating over 23,000 of its citizens who are in Saudi Arabia illegally.
According to the report of the incident, the suspected Ethiopian attackers confronted the Saudi Arabian man, who was driving around Casablanca, Al Ha-da area, knocking him unconscious before carving a cross on his chest with a metal object. The suspects fled the scene before the police arrived, but the authorities are reported to have been able to apprehend a number of suspects of Ethiopian origin in the area with the aid of locals.
Following reports of this attack, there have been speculations that the Ethiopian nationals behind the attack may be retaliating the perceived wrong wrought on their kinsmen by Saudi officials during the ongoing mass repatriation exercise. But neither Saudi Arabia nor Ethiopia have so far issued a statement to validate or dispute this claim.
This is not the first incident that highlights an underground religious conflict in the Muslim kingdom. Although no public churches operate in Saudi Arabia, Christians are reported to exist in the country—holding their meetings in individual houses and other locations. Several people reported to be Christians have been arrested by Saudi Arabia’s “religious police”, the Mutaween (or Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) in the past for practicing their faith in public or attempting to proselytize to Muslims. Last year, about 36 Christians who had been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia were released after much criticism from governments and human right groups.
Pundits say Saudi official are dedicated to ensuring the kingdom retains its characteristic Islamic roots. Last year, Fox News quoted the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh saying it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.” But Saudi officials insist Christians are only arrested when they attempt to convert Muslims to their faith–by practicing in public. In Saudi Arabia, converting from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death.
Ethiopia is a traditionally orthodox christian state, the faith is reported to have been practiced in the state at least since the 4th century. Naturally, the thousands of Ethiopian migrants who are reported to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia yearly attempt to practice their religion— but with great difficulty. While Christians face persecution in Saudi Arabia, Muslims also face persecution in Ethiopia. In the past few years, the Ethiopian government is reported to have increased surveillance of its relatively small Muslim population, with several clashes and arrests recorded.
In a Wikileaks report, Sheikh Elias Redman, a notable figure in the Ethiopian Muslim community noted that fundamentalist Wahhabist influence is spreading among Ethiopian Muslims, threatening the existence of Ethiopia’s Sufi version of Islam which promotes religious tolerance and co-existence with Christians. The Sheikh also revealed that these attempts are being supported by Saudi Arabia, allegedly to influence Ethiopia’s moderate Muslims with the Kingdom’s more traditional version of the religion.
Photo: Migrants wait to be transported to deportation centres in Riyadh. [AFP/Fayez Nureldine]
Worldwide approximately 100 million Christians are being persecuted because of their faith, according to estimates from the German aid organization Open Doors. An improvement to the situation is not in sight.
DW: Mr. Müller, as a analyst for the German aid organization Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, you observed that the five countries in which Christians are being persecuted the most are, first and foremost, North Korea, then Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Have these countries been on top of the list for years or have there been significant changes?
Thomas Müller: You can basically say that this situation has been going on for years. For the eleventh consecutive time North Korea is in first place in our rankings of countries in which Christians are being persecuted and oppressed the most. And that isn’t surprising considering what you hear from inside the country. It is understandable if people say: ‘Wait, there are really Christians left there?’ Yes, there are, but they have to go underground. As soon as they are found, they will most likely be sent to a labor camp or even worse.
Are there any countries where the persecution of Christians is decreasing?
There are countries where there is a little bit of hope – a couple of countries in Southeast Asia for instance. One of the countries worth mentioning here is Myanmar, formerly Burma, which has made international headlines because the military junta has at least given up parts of its power. However, one of the largest minorities in Myanmar is a Christian minority group, the Kachin. The military is still fighting against the Kachin and so you can absolutely wonder who really has the power in Myanmar. Is it the military or is it the president? And in the case of the Kachin or the Shan and other minorities it hits the Christians hard – churches are attacked there because people escape to those churches.
The persecution of Christians has different facets – from direct physical violence to discrimination in daily life by authorities or in shops. Is there a trend that the persecution of Christians has become more violent?
The tendency we see is that before it was the state that was the persecutor. Think about communism for example. But throughout the last few years it has shifted to governments realizing that persecuting Christians or other minorities means bad press. They decided it’s easier to support independent groups or supposedly independent groups that will persecute the Christians. So altogether the situation unfortunately hasn’t improved and persecution hasn’t decreased. Especially in countries that many had high hopes for, such as Egypt, where numerous attacks against the Coptic minority have recently occurred. We can’t talk about an Arab Spring anymore; after all, it’s eight to 10 million people that are affected.
You don’t just capture the persecution of Christians in abstract numbers, but you also analyze the persecution extensively. Have you found any prominent trends?
The trend is that unfortunately we see Islamic extremism increasing further. There are a couple of groups that have unfortunately even made it into Western media. I just want to mention Boko Haram in Nigeria, where there have been attacks again and again, especially against Christians. Another example from this year would be Mali, where in the last year Islamist groups have conquered the entire North. Recently there was an attack on a church in Pakistan, the harshest assault that has ever occurred against a Christian church in this country. Hence the violence is increasing and it is not focused on a certain region.
What you describe paints a grim picture. Is this also your prognosis for the persecution of Christians in the future?
I don’t see a change happening in these countries as long as people don’t understand that with all the welcome democratization tendencies happening, democracy doesn’t simply consist of having elections but also calls for the protection of minorities. That’s not only the case for the countries I’ve already mentioned, but also for democratic countries, such as Indonesia, where democracy has been working well for a couple of years now. But even there the protection of minorities is not ensured and to some extent there are violent assaults against Christians or churches simply being shot at.
You describe the mechanism that you currently observe. But that’s not a prognosis. What is your estimation for the future?
My estimation is that we will not see any improvement, at least not to a large extent. Maybe there will be a change in certain countries, for example Bhutan, where you can absolutely see that Christians have been doing better there throughout the last few years, even though they still don’t have any freedom. But altogether and as long as Muslim extremists are increasingly popular, it’s not looking so great. And as long as this extremism stays – and the signs point towards this at the moment – I would say there won’t be any improvement.
Thomas Müller (name has been changed by the editorial department) is a lawyer and works as an analyst for the German aid organization Open Doors. Open Doors is an interdenominational Christian aid organization supporting persecuted Christians whose religious freedom is vigorously restricted. The aid organization also compiles a study of the number of persecuted Christians and the political background of the persecution.
Reblogged from The Seduction of Christianity | Alan Vincent
If you are a Christian, this video will touch you deeply. It is a true story about a young girl who converted from Islam to Christianity. Contemporary society upholds a Christianity that is self-serving. This is because we have become lovers of self more than lovers of God, a trait that the Bible teaches will be the hallmark of the church at the end of this age.
I recently came across this quotation on http://waltsamp.wordpress.com/
The Self-Centered Church comes directly from our self-centered society. The core of the Self-Centered Church is an inward-looking view of what Christianity is meant to be. In this church what matters is that God thinks of them highly and lovingly. Their songs contain a lot of I, me, and my instead of second and third person pronouns such as you, he, and his. Their self-centeredness can go as far as to think that God’s happiness depends on their performance as a Christian. They think a lot about their time, their possessions, their safety and their personal peace. Obviously this church does not think much of others except in what way helping them might increase their own self-esteem.
By contrast Jesus said that we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He also said that if He, as the Master, was persecuted, then we too (as His followers) would persecuted.
We do not like persecution. It brings back memories of being bullied at school, We are selfish by nature and resort to self preservation. But Jesus also said that if we want to find life, we must be willing to lose it.
Even nature proves this point. In order for a plant to reproduce life, it first has to die. The seed must fall to the ground before it can reproduce life.
And herein lies the dilemma. We do not want to die (to self). We have been conditioned to live for the “good things” of this life – things that can in fact not produce life in us. We have become slaves of this lie. Jesus said “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life”. He also claimed that “no man can come to God the Father except through me”.
Jesus promised an abundant, eternal life, but what he did not mean was the brand of designer Christianity that we see promulgated as Christianity in mega churches.
via World Chaos News
Some of the images contained in this video are disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.
RIYADH (AFP) — A Saudi court jailed a Lebanese man for six years and sentenced him to 300 lashes after convicting him of encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity, local dailies reported Sunday.
The same court sentenced a Saudi man convicted in the same case to two years in prison and 200 lashes for having helped the young woman flee the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, local daily Al-Watan said.
A court delivered the verdict in Khobar in the kingdom’s east, where the woman and the two accused worked for an insurance company.
The July 2012 case caused a stir in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Islamic Sharia law that stipulates Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.
The woman, known only as “the girl of Khobar”, was granted refuge in Sweden where she lives under the protection of unspecified NGOs, according to local press reports.
She had appeared in a YouTube video last year in which she announced that she had chosen to convert to Christianity.
The case of the “Khobar Girl,” as she has become known in the Saudi media, has captivated the deeply conservative kingdom. Under Saudi law, any form of proselytization is illegal, and Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.
The woman, who is in her early 20s, is currently living abroad in Sweden, according to local press reports.
Last year she appeared in a video for a site called “Jesus Set Me Free,” an Arabic-language Evangelical Christian website, to announce her conversion.
In the video, the girl, her face covered, urges others to “ask God” if they are “hesitant or afraid,” emphasizing her belief that “[Jesus] is the son of God and I have seen him” in her dreams.
Her family’s lawyer Hmood al-Khalidi said he was “satisfied with the verdict,” according to the press.
Both men, who could also be prosecuted over other charges including corruption and forging official documents that allowed the woman to leave the country without her family’s agreement, will appeal.
Saudi women are banned from traveling without their guardians’ permission.