The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Persecution in Saudi Arabia

Did you know that there are somewhere around one million Catholics living in Saudi Arabia? Most of them are Filipinos hired by the Saudis to work as domestics or in similar jobs, largely low-paying, menial work. But because they live in Saudi Arabia where the law prohibits non-Muslims from worshiping except in private non-Muslim homes behind closed doors, it is almost impossible for them to attend Mass. This is not simply religious law, but the law of the kingdom.

This week 13 Filipinos, among them a Catholic priest, were arrested by the Mutawa. the very nasty Saudi religious police, because they were participating in a Catholic Mass held at a hotel. They were taken into custody when the police raided the hotel and shut down the Mass. Apparently there were upwards of 150 people attending but most were not detained because there was insufficient room at the local police station. The 13 arrested were charged with proselytizing. They were all eventually released on bail but still face some very serious charges under Saudi law. [See the article in the Arab News.]

Such charges stem from the Islamic fear of Muslims converting to other religions. Indeed, the harshest of punishments -- death -- can be handed down on those found guilty of the "crimes" of conversion or helping a Muslim convert. I suppose that's one way to keep the numbers up, just threaten to kill anyone who tries to abandon ship. And you thought the world had left all that behind a few centuries ago. But the Saudi's go even further: here's a link to a story describing the forced conversion of Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

Mosque in Dearborn, Michigan
There are over 1,200 mosques in the United States. There are no Christian churches in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia -- not a single church. And so, instead of wasting our time arguing about whether to build a mosque in lower Manhattan, perhaps we should just make its construction contingent on the building of a Catholic church in downtown Riyadh.

Of course, Saudi treatment of women who run afoul of the Mutawa is horrendous. Here's a quote from the book, Veiled Atrocities: True Stories of Oppression in Saudi Arabia:
The Saudi mutawas (“morality police”) are terrifying. Like vultures, they swoop down on their vulnerable prey, especially women, and then send them straight to Hell. The “long beards” curse and beat their female prisoner, totally terrify her; then, they throw her into a dark, medieval dungeon, (assume the worst here). They remove her only in order to gang-rape and torture her—all presumably in the name of Islam. Her crime? In one instance, although the woman was a foreign national, she dared to take a taxi downtown without a male escort.
Pray for the 13 who were arrested. And pray for the conversion of the world; after all, Jesus commanded us to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit" [Mt 28:19] -- pretty clear instructions.

And keep one thing in mind: As Christians we know we're doing something right when we get persecuted for doing it.

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