The situation for Christians in the Middle East continues to get worse, but this time, it isn't at the hands of a terrorist group or band of rebels. It's from one of our supposed allies in the region: Saudi Arabia. As Fox News reports, this past Friday (September 12th), agents from the country's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice rounded up 28 Christians at the home of an Indian national in the city of Khafji, and several Bibles were confiscated as well.. Their condition and whereabouts are currently unknown. As Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute told Fox News:
"Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy...It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments."
More information on the arrests comes later in the article:
An article posted on the Arabic-language news website Akhbar 24 said the arrests came after the Kingdom's religious police got a tip about a home-based church. The report further noted that “distorted writings of the Bible were found and musical instruments, noting their referral to the jurisdictional institutions.”
The Saudi media reported different compositions of the arrested Christians. Some reports said the Christians were men and women, while the Saudi Gazette wrote that children, as well as men and women, were detained. It was unclear if a court date has been set in the notoriously opaque fundamentalist court system.
Thus far, the only person speaking out for them in Washington is Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, who has long been known for his human rights advocacy. He is doing what he can to get our ambassador to the country to speak up on their behalf.
Secretary of State John Kerry is heading there as well, but will he talk to the Saudis about them? If recent events are any indicator, I wouldn't get my hopes up to much. At the very least, we should be asking why a country that had gone through such pains to establish itself as voice of moderation on interfaith dialogue, going as far as to sponsoring center dedicated to it in Vienna, still oppressing Christians in such a way. As Nina Shea correctly notes, there is no other country in the world that officially bans all churches. We shouldn't let Saudi Arabia get away with this, but will our leadership's moral rudderlessness and economic ties to the country prevent them from taking any significant action on the issue?