(ADDS AGES, COMMENTS PASTOR)
By BosNewsLife Middle East Service
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (BosNewsLife)– Two Indian Christian men working in Saudi Arabia were behind bars Tuesday, March 22, after they were sentenced to 45 days imprisonment for allegedly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, rights activists said.
Vasantha Sekhar Vara, 28, and Nese Yohan, 31, were detained and arrested March 11 in the Batha area of the capital Riyadh on charges of “proselytizing”, or attempted conversion, said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC), citing its contacts in Saudi Arabia.
Vara’s pastor in India, Ajay Kuma Jeldi, told reporters that Vara had told him by telephone that he was in prison for religious reasons and that he had been pressured to convert to Islam but had refused. “If I have to die for my God, I will die for him here,” Vara reportedly said.
There was no immediate comment from Saudi or Indian officials.
An ICC representative said his group believes the two workers were arrested to keep them from practicing Christianity privately in their home. “These two Christians have faced false charges and false evidence,” ICC Advocacy Director Logan Maurer told BosNewsLife in a statement. “The Saudi government continues to engage in an array of severe violations of human rights as part of its repression of freedom of religion,” Maurer added.
While in prison awaiting trial, their apartment was reportedly ransacked, apparently by Saudi security forces.
Christians said the two workers face uncertainty regarding their future. An employer has allegedly returned the passport of one of the Christians, saying his job is no longer available and that he will be expelled from the country. The other Christian awaits information regarding his legal status and job, ICC said.
It was not immediately clear what impact the case would have on other foreign workers, including Christians, who have been a key element in Saudi Arabia’s economy.
Rights groups say Saudi Arabia, a strict Islamic nation, has a long history of cracking down on Christians. In 2004, 28 Indian workers were reportedly arrested in Messriam for practicing Christianity. The charges were eventually dropped, but in 2010 brought up again leading to the deportation of one worker, while another person was arrested, ICC explained.
In another case, 16 Indian workers were allegedly arrested in February 2008, and then released after three days. In 2010, eight left the country of their own accord and three of the remaining eight were issued deportation orders and expelled, ICC investigators said.
ICC has urged its supporters to contact Saudi Arabia officials and “politely ask them to release and not expel vulnerable religious communities of Saudi Arabia.”
A recent United States State Department report on religious freedom expressed concerns about the situation of religious minorities in the country.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner said the public practice of non-Muslim religions remains prohibited, and that the Saudi government has not acted on pledges to rid textbooks of religious incitement. “…There still continues to be in the Saudi textbooks, references, very negative, stereotypical references to Christians, Jews and others, which regard as offensive,” he told reporters following the release of the report in November.
Saudi authorities have denied human rights abuses and recently urged political activists not to repeat pro-democracy demonstrations in other Arabic nations.
In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, the Interior Ministry said this month that demonstrations are prohibited “because these contradict the principles of Islamic law (Sharia) and the values and norms of the Saudi society; they further lead to public disorder, harm to public and private interests, breach of the rights of others, and to wreaking havoc that result in bloodshed.” (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).
i agree with the sentence. after all these south indian ( either tamil or malayali) christians were trying to do what christians do in india that is trying to convert hindus to christianity.
in my opinion both men should have been sentenced to death as that will be a lesson for those christians trying to embark on such adventure in hindu india.
Your comment underscores the international concern about extremism. You want them to be executed simply because they allegedly spoke about their faith in Jesus Christ with someone else. Christians can not convert people. It’s a free choice. The Bible’s John 3:16 for instance says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (New International Version). Nobody can make someone believe, or ‘convert’ a person with religious rituals or any other way. It’s a personal decision. However just to kill someone, as you suggest, because he or she wants to share the Good News about salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ seems to me violating all international human rights treaties ever created. I personally would wish you would choose Him in your life and test Him out yourself.
Stefan J. Bos
Let them keep their religion right with no defaulting others. Otherwise excution for those missleading people is not too much. Human right does not allow nautheous people to spoil the life of others. before extreemly opening ones’ mouth to human right think over and over again.
The news has one wrong information stating that people were charged for practising their faith. It is not the case in Saudi Arabia. What is not allowed is open worship etc like that happens in other Gulf countries. Moreover the authorities must have acted on the information received from other people. So those trying to convert Muslims in the cradle of Islam must be either very smart of else face the consequences. There is no compulsion in religion but there is definitely restriction on preaching faiths other than Islam.
persons like Shiva is the root cause for all.
I understand your views and I respect it.. If you are out to an alien country you are are supposed to follow the rules of that land but not the religion. If openly preaching that religion is prohibited, one has to obey it.. but doing it in closed doors shouldn’t be opposed anywhere around the world. And more over the case is the same for all religion in Saudi, except Islam. And if you feel that Christians are doing the same in India and you are disturbed by it, then the Americans shouldn’t have allowed Indians building Hindu Temples there. And this strict religious law in Saudi would have been in India (where you can’t practice any religion except Islam), if the Mogul Emperors still ruled India., so you wouldn’t have called it “Hindu India” then. As per the constitution of India you have the “right to speak” and so you have the right to preach your religious truths. And I feel death sentence for this particular issue is totally an unnecessary subject.
Praise the lord brothers and sisters…I see BosNewsLife…in Riyadh
Dear friend Shiva, why vent your hatred against someone whom you don’t know at all. I am also a christian but I believe that every person is entitled to practice, preach, profess his/her own religion and that is a universal until we infringe on someone’s rights or violate other religions ethics or practices. What if I charge some follower of Isalm in my place for going to a mosque and put them behind bars, charging them of trying to influence other christains by going to mosque?……. No my friend…….. Lets respect others religion and then try to live in peace with one another for this world is too small to let harted come and stay in our midst.
dai shiva i will give u one barbie doll are namitha picture frame pottu malarmalai vathchu worship pannu. sothamoodu shiva