Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saudi Arabia releases convert to the Christian faith

On 2nd February we requested prayer for Hamoud Bin Saleh, a Saudi national, arrested on 13th January after writing in his blog about his decision to follow Jesus. Hamoud also criticised the judicial system in his country.

We are pleased to report that he was released on 28th March. He has been banned from travelling outside Saudi Arabia or appearing in media. Nevertheless additional entries have since appeared in his blog.

Following Hamound's arrest, the Saudi authorities blocked access to his blog inside Saudi Arabia. Google then locked the blog, for what they claimed was a technical violation of their terms of service, before restoring it on 5th February 2009 following public pressure.

The relative leniency of the Saudi authorities in this case has surprised some Christians. Although there have been tentative moves towards reform, Saudi Arabia remains a country where political expression is overtly restricted and only one closely defined version of Sunni Islam is allowed to be publicly practised. Other forms of Islam and all other faiths are severely restricted. Officially, the death penalty for apostasy (i.e. leaving Islam) remains in force. Although there are no known examples of this sentence having being carried out in recent years, extra-judicial killings of those who choose to follow Jesus do occur. For example, it was reported in August 2008 that a Saudi man had killed his daughter because she chose to follow Jesus.

Christians in Saudi Arabia request our continued prayers that:
a. Hamoud will know the peace and presence of Jesus each day
b. The authorities will continue to act leniently towards Hamoud
c. That he will know the Spirit's guidance in all his actions, especially those related to the restrictions placed upon him
d. Those who have read Hamoud's blog would make a similar decision to follow Jesus
e. The reform process will continue, and will lead to greater freedom for Christians to express their faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord

(c) Middle East Concern

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