SAUDI CHRISTIAN BLOGGER ARRESTED
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reports that on 13 January 2009, Saudi police arrested Hamoud Bin Saleh and blocked access to his blog Masihi Saudi - http://christforsaudi.blogspot.com because of his opinions and his testimony that he had converted from Islam to Christianity. According to ANHRI, Hamoud Bin Saleh is incarcerated in the infamous Eleisha political prison in Riyadh.
ANHRI reports: The 28-year-old alumni of the al Yarmouk University in Jordan has been arrested twice before; for nine months in 2004 and last November . On that occasion (November 2008) Saudi authorities released Hamoud prior to the Saudi-sponsored, UN-run Culture of Peace conference that was held in the UN Headquarters in New York on 12-13 November 2008.
King Abdullah did not want to put his public relations coup at risk, and clearly it would have been inappropriate for Saudi Arabias King Abdullah to stand up and lament mankinds preoccupation with differences between the followers of religions while his religious police were abusing a young Saudi intellectual detained purely for his different religion. However once the Saudi-sponsored Culture of Peace conference had passed, Hamoud Bin Saleh was re-arrested for professing a different religion.
ANHRI holds great fears for Hamouds life, concerned that the Saudi authorities might seize the opportunity to make an example of him while the worlds eyes are fixed on the situation in Gaza.
As ANHRI notes: The young man committed no crime and the only thing he has done is exercising his normal right to express his opinions and beliefs, which must not be violated under whatever pretext.
ANHRI condemns Salehs arrest and holds the Saudi government fully responsible for his safety. It also demands his immediate release and calls on the Saudi government to meet its commitments and the Saudi kings statements about the respect of freedom of expression and religious tolerance.
THE REALITY OF SAUDI BLOGGING
On 10 December 2007, Fouad Ahmad al-Farhan (32) became the first Saudi to be arrested in Saudi Arabia over the content of a blog. US-educated Farhan, an Information Technology (IT) specialist who is married with two children, was arrested in Jeddah after using his blog to criticise the Interior Ministry Spokesman.
Al- Farhan was a very popular blogger who exposed corruption and appealed for political reform. A huge campaign was subsequently launched calling for his release. Al-Farhan was release on 26 April 2008 after being interrogated and held in solitary confinement for over four months. He was unique amongst Saudi bloggers in that he refused to seek refuge in anonymity and blogged openly under his real name.
According to a January 2008 article in the Washington Post: Blogging has been on the rise in Saudi Arabia recently, allowing people to speak up in a society where the media is censored and where political parties and public gatherings are banned. There are an estimated 600 bloggers in the kingdom, male and female, conservative and liberal, writing in English and Arabic. (Link 3)
THE REALITY OF SAUDI CHRISTIANITY
On 20 August 2008, the WEA Religious Liberty Prayer ministry issued a prayer bulletin (RLP No. 492) entitled: Saudi Arabia: shaken by apostasy and dissidence.
The case at the centre of the prayer bulletin was that of a young Saudi woman, Fatima Al-Mutairi (26), who revealed in her blog that she had converted to Christianity. When her brother (or father: reports vary), an officer with the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, learned of her conversion, he reportedly cut out her tongue and burned her to death.
Gulf News reported: The death of the girl sent shockwaves and websites where the victim used to write with various nicknames have allocated special space to mourn her, while some others closed temporarily in protest.
The RLP bulletin highlighted the tensions that are rising in totalitarian Islamic states where Islam is traditionally protected from blasphemy (criticism) and apostasy (rejection). Today globalisation and advances in information and communication technologies are providing avenues through which differing opinions and ideas infiltrate once closed, totalitarian societies. After discovering diversity, curious and enquiring minds then discover what it means to be living in a culture of no liberty in a land of no difference.
Shortly before her martyrdom, Fatima Al-Mutairi wrote and posted to her blog a poem she entitled And we for the sake of Christ all things bear. The Barnabas Fund published an English translation of this poem on page 12 of its January-February 2009 newsletter.
In her poem Fatimas professes her love for Jesus Christ, and for her homeland, Saudi Arabia a love so strong she stands ready to die for both. She laments the cruel persecution while professing no fear and a commitment to remain unto death a Christian.
She concludes her poem with this prayer:
As to my last words, I pray to the Lord of the worlds Jesus the Messiah, the Light of Clear Guidance That He change notions, and set scales of justice aright And that he spread Love among you, O Muslims.
Saudi authorities have long repressed and persecuted the kingdoms Christian expatriate workers, and forbidden Bibles, crosses and Christian literature from entering the country, believing that they can keep Christianity out of the Saudi population. But all the effort has been for naught, for Christianity has sprung up in its midst anyway.
I am a Saudi and a Christian, said Fatima Al-Mutairi (26) before she was martyred.
I am a Saudi and a Christian, said Hamoud Bin Saleh (28) before he was arrested.
Saudi authorities have no right to promote themselves as beacons of peace and religious tolerance until Saudi Christianity is recognised and Saudis themselves have religious liberty.
By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance