Washington, DC --Saudi Arabia is detaining dozens of Pakistani Christians after a raid during a prayer meeting hosted by a Pakistani preacher. The arrests coincide with a meeting today between President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah regarding soaring oil and gas prices.
"This raid exemplifies the consistent stance the Saudi Arabian government has taken with regard to minority religions -- followers will be punished for practicing anything other than Wahhabi Islam," said Joseph K. Grieboski, President of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. "One can only hope that President Bush raised these arrests during the meeting given the importance of the advance of liberty and democracy recently undertaken by the Bush Administration."
The United States Department of State reports that Saudi Arabia has banned every religion other than Wahhabi Islam and was labeled a Country of Particular Concern for Severe Violations of Religious Freedom (CPC) by the State Department last year. The labeling, done in accordance with the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), calls for a regime of sanctions to be brought against CPCs within 180 days of being labeled as such. In the past, every designated CPC has fallen under a provision allowing for previously-applied sanctions to effectively "double-hat" as sanctions for IRFA. This year, however, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Vietnam are not currently under any sanctions by the United States. The deadline for new IRFA- based sanctions passed March 15th with no action from the State Department.
"The State Department should enforce CPC sanctions and send a message to the millions of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia that the United States' concern for persecuted people of faith is not limited to words and reports but includes substantive action," state Mr. Grieboski. "The need and the time for action are now."