Friday, July 1, 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (BosNewsLife)-- A young Indian missionary has been sentenced to one year in prison and beaten hundreds of times in Saudi Arabia, where up to 100 foreign Christians have been detained in recent weeks, a mission organization said Thursday, June 30.
Christian Aid Mission (CAM) told BosNewsLife that 30-year old Brother Samkutty, whose family name was not released, was detained after traveling to the Islamic kingdom on the invitation of Christian friends who had asked him to speak in churches of Indian believers.
"On March 22, while on his way to a Bible study, Samkutty was arrested by Saudi Arabia's religious police," said CAM, which supports native missionaries across the world. It stressed it had "just learned" that he "has been sentenced to one year in jail and has been beaten more than 300 times."
CAM said Brother Samkutty was a relative of an indigenous missionary it supports. He is said to be one of at least dozens of Indian Christians and other believers who were arrested in recent weeks in what Washington, D.C.-based human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) described as Saudi Arabia's "largest crackdown on Christians in a decade."
MANY STILL IN JAIL
Other Indian missionary sources have told BosNewsLife that up to 100 Christians have been arrested in recent weeks. "While spokespeople for the Saudi government have firmly denied that any such arrests are taking place, information received from Christian Aid [Mission] contacts in India speaks to the contrary," CAM said.
In Saudi Arabia, public expression of any faith except Islam is illegal. The country's royal family has claimed individuals are permitted to practice any religion in their own homes, but the arrests of Indian and other Christians show persecution, CAM and other human rights groups have said.
"Please pray for Samkutty, for his immediate release from the Saudi jail and to get back to India safely. He is only 30 years old and has a wife and 1-year-old child," an Indian ministry leader and colleague said in a statement released by CAM to BosNewsLife.
Human rights watchdogs and Western diplomats have complained that although Saudi Arabia’s economy heavily depends on foreigners, expatriates are not allowed to profess their faith.
There are around six million foreigners in the conservative country, which has a population of 23 million, including many Christians from Europe, North America, Asia and other Arab states, according to estimates.
The ICC stressed recently that what it called a "pogrom-like sweeping of the Christian minority in Saudi Arabia" is "a great disappointment" to the United States’ State Department, and shows "deficient resolve in enforcing sanctions on “Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC), which could include sanctions. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Saudi Arabia).