Two Dozen Christians Deported From Saudi Arabia For Praying

Muslim pilgrims walk on roads as they head to cast stones at pillars symbolizing Satan during the annual haj pilgrimage in Mina earlier this month. Churches are banned in Saudi Arabial.Reuters

Saudi Arabia has deported 27 Christians for having a service in their home to mark the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, according to news reports. 

The deportation was carried out because the Christians' prayers were "unIslamic", according to EWTN.

The women, some of whom had children with them, argued unsuccessfully that because the Koran esteems Mary, their prayers should not be seen as insulting.

In 2006 the Saudi government pledged to stop interfering with private worship of non-Muslims.

Christians make up about three per cent of the population of Saudi Arabia, where churches are banned and apostasy is a capital offence.

Professor Camille Eid, of Milan univerisity, an expert on Christianity in the Middle East, told the TV show Where God Weeps that Christians in Saudi Arabia have to practice their faith in secret.

"They say that Christians can pray privately but what does private mean? Does it mean alone or with your family? When more than two, or a group of families, are praying together in the privacy of their home the religious police can come in and intervene and arrest them."

Anyone seen wearing a cross can have it removed by any Muslim, not just police officers.

Americans, French and Italians celebrate Christmas and Easter services inside their embassies but there is no Christian, Jewish, Hindu or any other worship anywhere else in Saudi Arabia, a law enforced by 5,000 religious police.

Eid described the case of a Saudi girl who converted to Christianity and wrote a poem to Christ. She had her tongue cut, disappeared and was later found dead.  

The UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Simon Collis, recently converted to Islam.

Saudi Arabia is currently number 14 on the Open Doors persecution watch list.

Open Doors says: "The majority of the population is under thirty and the youth culture has changed radically under the influence of satellite TV, the internet and social media. Young people are longing for more freedom, especially for women, and do not want to be restricted by the religious police."

Open Doors reports that the internet revolution has reached Islamic leaders and several imams have Twitter accounts. "The number of Christian converts from Islam and other religions is increasing, along with their boldness in sharing their new faith."