these Indian Ocean islands, well informed Christian sources said.
Christian rights watchdog Open Doors said police detained a former Muslim teenager, a married couple, an Islamic home owner and another Muslim who showed "much interest in Christianity."
The predominantly Islamic Comoros, a republic of three islands situated between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique, ranks 15th on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List of the 50 "worst persecuting countries in the world."
"So far persecution of Christian came mainly from the local population. It is remarkable that the four men and one woman were arrested by Comoros’ police force," said Open Doors from its headquarters in Ermelo, the Netherlands, about the May arrests.
Open Doors, which has been investigating persecution in Comoros, said the troubles began when the 15-year-old Christian, who it identified as ‘Timothy’, which is not his real name, was arrested after his older brother allegedly told police he was angry that Timothy decided to abandon Islam.
Under interrogation, the young Christian reportedly told police: "I am a follower of Christ and study the Bible." Police forced him to reveal the address where the Bible studies were given, and soon arrested the Bible study leader Peter (not his real name) and the home owner, Open Doors said.
The organization did not reveal the real names of those detained, apparently for fears of possible revenge attacks. It said police also searched the home, and agents confiscated "a list with names of Christians and Bibles and other Christian materials." A local television crew apparently reported the incident and allegedly threatened those attending the Bible study.
Peter’s wife was also detained after she came to visit her husband at the police station, Christian investigators said. Everyone was allegedly forced to spend two nights in their underwear in a dark prison.
Peter’s wife was briefly allowed to care for her children, but two days later deported to a women prison where she was allegedly mistreated by fellow prisoners and guards.
Peter en Timothy were forced to share a prison with the home owner and another member of the Bible study group, described as "a Muslim with much interest in Christianity," Open Doors said.
A court has now given the four men a three months prison sentence, while Peter’s wife has been released, the organization added in a statement.
It comes amid concern among human rights investigators over reports that the president, Iranian-trained Sunni Muslim cleric Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, popularly known as "the Ayatollah," plans to introduce strict Islamic measures. The policy is part of his "Green Revolution" a reference to the green Islamic flags used in Comoros. He has dismissed charges from his opponents that he is an Islamic extremist.
Sambi won the May 2006 presidential election with 58% of the vote on promises to fight unemployment and corruption. Christians, mainly Roman Catholics, comprise about two percent of Comoros’ roughly 700,000-strong, mainly Sunni Muslim, population, estimates the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With Special Correspondent Eric Leijenaar, in the Netherlands, Managing Editor of the Netherlands leading evangelical monthly Uitdaging (Challenge)).