40 Pakistan Christians Arrested in Saudi Arabia during House Gathering

A local newspaper has reported that Saudi Arabia has detained 40 Pakistani Christians for a religious gathering on Saturday in the capital Riyadh, according to Reuters.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2004 published by the US Department of State, Saudi Arabia has a legal system based on Islamic law (Shari'a) and therefore does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion. All citizens are required to be Muslims and all the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.

The Al Jazirah newspaper said a group of 40 men, women and children were arrested for holding prayers when the police raided the house. It said authorities also found Christian tapes and books.

However, another daily newspaper Al Yaum, said the raid took place on Friday while a Pakistani preacher was delivering a sermon.

Reuters said till now, Saudi authorities were not immediately available to comment.

Saudi Arabia, has been accused of severe violation of religious freedom by the US Department of State. The country has a total area of 1,225,000 square miles, and its population is approximately 24 million, with an estimated foreign population of 6 to 7 million. Among the foreigners, there are many Christians from Europe, North America, Asia and other Arab states.

Saudi Arabia was first classified as one of the "countries of particular concern" along with Vietnam and Eritrea in September 2004 by the US Department of State. The department said freedom of religion did not exist in Saudi Arabia. The 2004 report maintained China, Myanmar, Iran, North Korea and Sudan in the category among alleged violators of religious freedom.

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