Saudi Arabia "Threatens" Pastor With Death

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

By Joe DeCaro, Worthy News International Correspondent

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (Worthy News) -- An Eritrean pastor in Saudi Arabia was hiding outside the capital Riyadh Tuesday, February 3, after allegedly receiving death threats, including from the Islamic country's feared religious police.

Yemane Gebriel, a father of eight who also worked as a private driver for 25 years, said the threats were issued in writing and verbally since last month. On January 13, a religious police official, identified as Abdul Aziz, and others allegedly forced the pastor from his car telling him to leave the country.

The pastor said in a statement that he also discovered a note on his van saying: "If you do not leave the country, we will kill you." Three days later, Aziz apparently returned, asking him why he had not left the country. Soon after, four masked men reportedly surrounded his car, saying that if he did not leave Riyadh they would kill him.

Advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC) told Worthy News that the incidents came as a set-back for Gebriel, "who pastored an informal congregation for ten years and recently handed over leadership to others."

The pastor said he managed to "secretly escape" last week, January 28, to an undisclosed city with support from "consular officials".


This was not the first time the Eritrean pastor had been pressured by Saudi authorities, MEC said.  "He was among a group of 17 foreign pastors held by the Saudi authorities in May 2005 before diplomatic pressure led to their release," the group explained. "The member of the religious police thought to have been behind" the pastor's arrest in 2005, "is one of those leading the current threats."

Saudi officials did not comment on the case.

Christians have linked the latest incident to a government-backed crackdown on Christian converts and church activities in Saudi Arabia. Also last month Hamoud Bin Saleh, a Saudi national, was arrested after writing on his Website about his decision to follow Jesus, instead of Islam.

He reportedly also criticized the Saudi judicial system. Local authorities have blocked access to his blog. "This is the third time that Hamoud has been detained, having been held for nine months in 2004 and for one month in 2008," MEC added.


Saudi Christians have expressed concern that the Internet writer may be executed for apostasy, under the country's strict interpretation of Islamic law.

In writings Saudi Christians requested prayers that "Hamoud and Yemane will both know the peace and presence of Jesus throughout these ordeals" and that "authorities will act mercifully" towards the two men, "including releasing him" and ending the threats.

Despite the apparent difficulties, they still hope that, "Those who have read Hamoud's blog would make a similar decision to follow Jesus," and that Christians will be able to continue to worship in this Islamic nation. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos)

3 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia "Threatens" Pastor With Death

  1. It is amazing to me that anyone can come to America, worship their god, maintain their cultural ties, dress, food, lifestyle, but if an American goes to Saudi Arabia, he/she is forbidden to be themselves.

    • As a foreigner working in Saudi Arabia a one sided argument is so ridiculous for a group of people like you to conclude and don't have under standing with Saudi Arabia. I'm a mMuslim Filipino with a Christian side on my mother. Here in Saudi nobody will forced you to became a Muslim. Let us be reminded that no other religion is allowed here to be publicly practiced outside Islam even to the extent the Shia and Sufi Islamic belief. Every Christian, Hindu, Budhist, Sikh who want to work in here signed a paper before coming to Saudi Arabia that he is not allowed to practice his religion except Islam in Saudi Arabia or to propagate. He is only allowed to practice it individually and not in public.... all people who visited this country know that fact and even those so-called Christian who was deported because of publicly proffessing their beliefs knew that. The Saudis are so sensitive on religion and even some Islamic beliefs practiced in other Muslim countries were prohibited.... thus a person should not blame the Saudis if they were arrested for publicly practiced their faith because they have warned and signed and agreement with the Saudi embassy that they are not allowed to practice their religion... please have a research on this matter.......

      • Zander what has been left unsaid is that Saudi Arabia has taken full advantage of the religious freedom in Christian countries to build huge mosques that have a capacity of hundreds or thousands of people and then gets "offended" with a measley house church of 10 Christians who want to practice their religion.

        No this is not "tolerance" this is exploitation.

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