Will President Obama Tell The Saudis to Respect Human Rights And Allow Churches?
Posted by addisethiopia on March 22, 2014
Obama and the Churches of Saudi Arabia
When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia next week, he will have an opportunity to follow through on his inspiring words at the Feb. 6. National Prayer Breakfast. There, he told thousands of Christian leaders that “the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose” is central to “human dignity,” and so “promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.”
The freedom so central to human dignity is denied by the Kingdom. The State Department has long ranked Saudi Arabia among the world’s most religiously repressive governments, designating it a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act. Yet the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has not pressed Riyadh to respect religious freedom.
Saudi Arabia is the only state in the world to ban all churches and any other non-Muslim houses of worship. While Saudi nationals are all “officially” Muslim, some two to three million foreign Christians live in the kingdom, many for decades. They have no rights to practice their faith. The Saudi government has ignored Vatican appeals for a church to serve this community, despite the fact that in 1973 Pope Paul VI approved a proposal for the Roman city council to donate city lands for a grand mosque in Rome. The mosque, opened in 1995, is among the largest in Europe.
Christian foreign workers in Saudi Arabia can only pray together clandestinely. Religious-police dragnets against scores of Ethiopian house-church Christians, mostly poor women working as maids, demonstrate the perils of worshiping: arrest, monthslong detention and abuse, and eventual deportation. The more fortunate do what I did when I visited three years ago—sneak off to pray in a windowless safe room behind embassy walls.
It’s difficult to hide a worship service in the tightly-controlled kingdom. The Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, the religious police, is always looking for women and men mingling together, women who fail to conform to the state-mandated Muslim dress code, and the movements of foreigners. University of Milan Professor Camille Eid, who has worked in Jeddah, reported to the Catholic outlet Zenit in 2011 that he was afraid even to give Christmas or Easter greetings over the phone for fear “someone might be listening.”
Distributing Bibles in Saudi Arabia is illegal. Priests must go undercover, pretending to be cooks or mechanics, to celebrate underground Masses for the estimated 1.5 million Filipino, Indian and other Catholics working or living there. Crosses, rosaries and Christian literature and art must not be publicly displayed. Even the ruins of a fourth-century church in the Persian Gulf city of Jubail are kept off limits to the public and archaeologists.
The fanatical intolerance of everything Christian extends to a crackdown on red roses on Valentine’s Day. Visiting European soccer teams with cross logos must blur the icon on team jerseys. At one holiday party in the American school in Riyadh, a Santa Claus had to jump through a window to escape religious police, according to Mr. Eid’s account.
The official Saudi National Human Rights Commission director Bandar al-Aiban told me that churches are forbidden because the entire country is “a sacred mosque” for Islam’s holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina—two cities completely closed to non-Muslims. He seemed unperturbed that Saudi national borders are a modern invention dating to 1932, not to Prophet Muhammad’s era more than 1,300 years earlier.
No other country on the Arabian Peninsula adopts the Saudi anti-church stance. Qatar, which like Saudi Arabia practices strict Wahhabi Islam, allowed the first public Christian worship service in 1988 and has leased land for foreign workers to build more than a dozen churches since 2008. Last year Bahrain’s monarchy donated land for the peninsula’s first cathedral, a Catholic church called Our Lady of Arabia.
President Obama on his visit could ask King Abdullah to allow churches in the Kingdom. As the president explained in February, the right to worship is an essential human right that “matters to our national security.” Allowing a church would help foreign Christian workers and instill in Saudi society a sense of peaceful coexistence with the religious “other.” That may help us all.
The president could also call for other steps to temper national policies against Christians. Education Ministry textbooks, for example, still teach violent hatred against Christians, as well as Jews and other groups with different beliefs. A 10th-grade text tells students that homosexuals can be murdered by fire, stoning or being thrown from a high place. Saudi Arabia could also replace the state-employed religious leaders, who, the State Department reported in 2013, call for the destruction of all Arabian Peninsula churches and publicly pray for the “humiliation” of “polytheists,” a term Wahhabis apply to Christians, Shiites and Hindus.
The kingdom is now organizing internationally against Iranian and al Qaeda extremism, so this is an especially good time to implore the country to begin ending religious extremism at home. So far President Obama has only preached to the choir. In a few days he will have a chance to make his case before the Saudi king.
Why the Media Doesn’t Cover Jihadist Attacks on Middle East Christians
“To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace”—[Hebrews 6:6]
The United Nations, Western governments, media, universities, and talking heads everywhere insist that Palestinians are suffering tremendous abuses from the state of Israel. Conversely, the greatest human rights tragedy of our time—radical Muslim persecution of Christians, including in Palestinian controlled areas—is devotedly ignored
The facts speak for themselves. Reliable estimates indicate that anywhere from 100-200 million Christians are persecuted every year; one Christian is martyred every five minutes. Approximately 85% of this persecution occurs in Muslim majority nations. In 1900, 20% of the Middle East was Christian. Today, less than 2% is.
In one week in Egypt alone, where my Christian family emigrated, the Muslim Brotherhood launched a kristallnacht—attacking, destroying, and/or torching some 82 Christian churches (some of which were built in the 5th century, when Egypt was still a Christian-majority nation before the Islamic conquests). Al-Qaeda’s black flag has been raised atop churches. Christians—including priests, women and children—have been attacked, beheaded, and killed.
Nor is such persecution of Christians limited to Egypt. From Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east and from Central Asia to the north to sub-Saharan Africa to the south; across thousands of miles of lands inhabited by peoples who do not share the same races, languages, cultures, and/or socio-economic conditions, millions of Christians are being persecuted and in the same exact patterns.
Muslim converts to Christianity and Christian evangelists are attacked, imprisoned, and sometimes beheaded; countless churches across the Islamic world are being banned or bombed; Christian women and children are being abducted, enslaved, raped, and/or forced to renounce their faith.
Far from helping these Christian victims, U.S. policies are actually exacerbating their sufferings. Whether in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, or Syria, and under the guise of the U.S.-supported “Arab Spring,” things have gotten dramatically worse for Christians. Indeed, during a recent U.S. congressional hearing, it was revealed that thousands of traumatized Syrian Christians—who, like Iraqi Christians before them are undergoing a mass exodus from their homeland—were asking “Why is America at war with us?”
The answer is that very few Americans have any clue concerning what is happening to their coreligionists.
Few mainstream media speak about the horrific persecution millions of people are experiencing simply because they wish to worship Christ in peace.
There, is of course, a very important reason why the mainstream media ignores radical Muslim persecution of Christians: if the full magnitude of this phenomenon was ever know, many cornerstones of the mainstream media—most prominent among them, that Israel is oppressive to Palestinians—would immediately crumble.
The media simply cannot portray radical Muslim persecution of Christians—which in essence and form amount to unprovoked pogroms—as a “land dispute” or a product of “grievance” (if anything, it is the ostracized and persecuted Christian minorities who should have grievances). And because the media cannot articulate radical Islamic attacks on Christians through the “grievance” paradigm that works so well in explaining the Arab-Israeli conflict, their main recourse is not to report on them at all.
In short, Christian persecution is the clearest reflection of radical Islamic supremacism. Vastly outnumbered and politically marginalized Christians simply wish to worship in peace, and yet still are they hounded and attacked, their churches burned and destroyed, their women and children enslaved and raped. These Christians are often identical to their Muslim co-citizens, in race, ethnicity, national identity, culture, and language; there is no political dispute, no land dispute.
The only problem is that they are Christian and so, Islamists believe according to their scriptural exegesis, must be subjugated.
If mainstream media were to report honestly on Christian persecution at the hands of radical Islamists so many bedrocks of the leftist narrative currently dominating political discourse would crumble, first and foremost, the idea that radical Islamic intolerance is a product of “grievances,” and that Israel is responsible for all Jihadist terrorism against it.