How Saudi Arabia treats Christians
Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest Muslim sites, Mecca and Medina, and the Saudi government, with its allied religious establishment, considers itself the authoritative voice of Islam. The Saudi king’s official title is ‘Custodian of the two holy mosques’, indicating the importance that the royal family attaches to Islam.
The region once had a large Christian population, which was expelled during the reign of Caliph Umar (AD 634-644) shortly after Muhammad’s death. Today, Saudi Arabia is one of the most conservative Sunni Muslim countries in the world, following an extreme and puritanical version of Islam called Wahhabism.
This form of Islam originated in Saudi Arabia in the eighteenth century and is now being propagated all over the world, using the wealth from Saudi oil money.
Saudi Arabia claims that the Quran is its constitution and that all its laws and regulations are promulgated in accordance with sharia (which prescribes the death sentence for converts from Islam).
There is no freedom of religion, and the Saudi government denies that there are Saudi Christians. This is untrue, but the number of Saudi Christians is known only to the Lord.
Most are secret believers. In summer 2008 a Saudi man working for the mutawaah burned his sister to death when he found out that she had converted to Christianity.
Christians and other non-Muslims face discrimination, harassment and abuse, especially at the hands of the mutawaah, the religious police. No non-Muslim is allowed in Mecca and everyone must follow the Muslim dress and moral codes, including fasting during Ramadan.
Intolerance towards non-Muslims is also promoted at schools, in textbooks containing passages that propagate discrimination and hatred against Christians and other non-Muslims.
The number of Saudi nationals who are converts from Islam to Christianity can only be guessed. Conservative Sunni Muslim clerics reportedly pray for the destruction of Christians and issue fatwas that justify violent acts against Christians. Virulently anti-Christian sentiments are also expressed in the country’s official media.
Millions of foreign workers from South Asia, Africa and the West are living in Saudi Arabia, many of whom profess to be Christians.
The Government has stated that expatriate Christians are free to worship in private. However, the mutawaah still sometimes raid private worship services, as they did quite frequently before the government announcement.
On 19 March 2010, four mutawaah officers and a police officer raided an Indian Christian prayer service that was held in a private home. They took photographs and a video, confiscated Bibles, and arrested the pastor and two worshippers, detaining them in the local police station for five days.