Urgent Intervention Called for Detained Pakistani Christians

Christian persecution watchdog groups and human rights organizations are requesting urgent intervention in the case of the 40 Pakistani Christians held in Saudi Arabia

Christian persecution watchdog groups and human rights organizations are requesting urgent intervention in the case of the 40 Pakistani Christians held in Saudi Arabia for holding a prayer meeting at a private house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In a letter dispatched to the Foreign Minister of Pakistan on Tuesday, Syed Iqbal Hiader, Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), expressed the organization’s distress over the recent news reports regarding the detention of the 40 Pakistani Christians in Saudi Arabia.

“The Pakistani nationals held, apparently under Saudi regulations that make practicing any religion other than Islam illegal, include a number of women and children,” Hiader said in the letter.

“Given your proven commitment to upholding human-rights and the basic principles of humanitarianism, we urge you to take up the matter with Saudi authorities and seek the immediate release of these unfortunate persons,” Haider stated further. “We also appeal to you to ask the Pakistan Embassy in Saudi Arabia to establish contact with the detained Pakistani nationals, and provide them the assistance and support they urgently require and are certainly entitled to.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Voice of the Martyrs is asking Christians to contact the representatives to protest this human rights abuse, which could draw international pressure and force their release.

"As we are sending those letters and communicating that way, we can affect a change in the policy of the country of Saudi Arabia, at least in this particular case," VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton told Mission Network News (MNN).

"Our goal, really, at Voice of the Martyrs, is to stand with local believers,” Nettleton had said. “And, we know there are believers in Saudi Arabia. We know there are Saudi believers who are carrying out the Gospel there in their own country. And so, we want to do whatever we can to be of assistance to them and help them as they're building the church there."

The spokesman says that VOM is currently beaming in Christian radio programs and providing Christian literature to underground believers.

"Saudi Arabia is a county where no Saudi citizen is allowed to identify themselves as a Christian,” the Nettleton commented. “And, there are no church buildings allowed - even foreign worshipers are subject to being raided and arrested by the religious police."

Regarding the 40 detained Christians, the spokesmen said, “Because they are Pakistanis, they could face a long period of time in jail.”

The spokesman also noted that had the detainees been American Christians, they probably wouldn't have faced such harsh treatment.

“We've seen people from less powerful countries than America have been held from long periods of time and in one case sentenced to die," he added.

Following the mass arrest, human-rights monitors and lawmakers in the U.S. have criticized the Bush administration for not penalizing the Saudi government after the State Department in September designated the kingdom a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Passed in 1998, International Religious Freedom Act granted authority to the State Department to officially single out "nations guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom."