Saudi Arabia: Islamic Religious Police arrest Catholics for attending a Mass

I am in NYC right now, not too far the World Trade Center.

As I contemplate the World Trade Center, I read this from Asia News:

Saudi Arabia: conditional release for 12 Filipinos accused of proselytizing

The Catholic migrants are currently in the custody of their employers at the disposition of authorities. Saudi religious police (Muttawa) arrested them last October 1 for taking part in a Mass celebrated by a French priest. 150 other foreign Catholics were with them, whose fate remains unknown[They were arrested for going to Mass.]

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Saudi authorities have conditionally released the Catholic Filipino migrant worker arrested on 1 October in Riyadh along with 11 other compatriots – released Oct. 3 -, while attending a Mass along with 150 foreigners celebrated by a French priest. At present, the 12 Filipinos have been entrusted to their employers and representatives of the embassy in Manila in Saudi Arabia are negotiating with the authorities for their repatriation. The fate of the others present at the Catholic mass remains unknown.

According Exxedin H. Tago, charge d’affaires of the Philippines Embassy the 12 are not yet completely out of danger. “It is still unclear – he says – if their case was closed. They were accused of proselytizing and if the authorities deem them guilty they could return to jail”.

Saudi Arabia forbids the construction of churches, and other non-Muslim temples, the wearing of religious symbols, or hanging of images in homes. The religious police (Muttawa) has tightened controls to impose these laws. Only rarely does the government allow the celebration of Mass in private. The availability of work, however, continues to attract migrants who put up with terrible working conditions, the risk of forced conversions and sexual abuse[Enlightened.]

In early September, a Filipino nurse employed at the Kharja Hospital died in hospital after being raped and left dying in the desert by her rapists. Two weeks later, again in Riyadh, three nurses in the National Guard Hospital were abducted and raped while returning from work and are now in serious condition.

A total of 8 million foreigners live and work in the kingdom. According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) from 2007 to 2008, migration to the Middle East has seen an increase of 29.5%.

Sts. Nunilo and Alodia, pray for us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. becket1 says:

    Everyone in the secular media complained about France banning the Burka. France has EVERY RIGHT to ban the Burka considering this country’s actions against non-muslims!.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    I am so glad you put this on the blog. For years, my friends whose husbands work for Shell in Saudi Arabia and in Oman, have not been able to go to Mass. They finally decided to send their children to boarding schools in England and Belgium, where the children could go to Mass regularly. I had several friends living in such Muslem countries who could not openly practice their Catholic Faith.

  3. Geoffrey says:

    Saudi Arabia is a major ally of the USA in the middle east. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had freedom of religion. Go figure…

  4. Iconophilios says:

    Muslim nations should be excluded from everything possible on the world stage until they learn to smarten up; this behavior is unacceptable.
    Although I say should, I know that will never happen because of their strangle hold on oil.

  5. theloveofwisdome says:

    True Story-

    This took place over 20 years ago. I had the misfortune of being born in Saudi Arabia. My father, who was a seminarian in the Holy Land for much of his childhood- learned a plethora of languages as a part of his seminary curriculum and after 11 years, when he finally left the seminary, before being ordained a deacon, he ended up working for the Royal Saudi Family as an interpreter. Being born and brought up there for much of my early childhood, I remember going to mass in secret- in peoples homes, and sometimes at the American embassy there. There were many, many Filipinos there.

    School was tough, I remember there was only one other catholic in the whole school- he was the janitor. I was often singled out and picked on and beat up for being an “infadel”. In retrospect, I thank God for giving me the opportunity and grace to be persecuted for his sake.

    Though I was young, to this day, I have a very vivid memory of the religious police forcing their way into a home and arresting a our preist, a Fr. Pascal. They confiscated everything- crucifixes, icons, ciboria, chalice, paten, vestments- and even the tabernacle. If our altar was not just a table with an altar-cloth, they would have taken that too. As I was very young, I did not understand the faith enough to pay any attention to whether or not the consecrated hosts where kept, consumed, or also confiscated. The priest was the only one arrested- for the same charges as the above article, “proselytism”. Fr. Pascal was incarcerated for a few months and no-one knew what had happened to him. Finally, my Father, having been on good terms and friends with some of the Royal Family there, made an inquiry and an appeal to them by means of their cordial business friendship. Several princes agreed to my fathers request, and my father was permitted to see Fr. Pascal.

    When he saw him, he said he was unrecognizable. My father said he was horrified by the things he saw in the prison- there were chains with cuffs bound to cement walls and all kinds of strange torture devices- he said it looked like a modern version of a medieval torture chamber. Fr. Pascal was bald, they had shaved his head with a razor, and he was emaciated. My father told him he would get him out. My father spoke again with the princes, and explained to him that the charges against this priest were unjust- he was not “proselytizing” – everyone present at the mass was already catholic and no one had been a Muslim. Finally, at my father’s insistence, the princes gave the command for Fr. Pascal to be released on the condition that he never return to the country. When my father returned to the prison to have him released, one of the guards told my father he had gotten the priest out just in time- and that if he had waited a day or two later, he would have found Fr. Pascal chained into and hanging from some chains on the wall. My father said he was not sure if the guard was kidding or not.

    We soon emigrated out of Saudi Arabia to the United States during the gulf war. When I arrived here in the united states, I soon realized that the faith is under attack here too- though instead of from without, it is attacked from within. I am convinced that being a Catholic is easier in a place where one can be martyred for having the faith than in a place where one is intoxicated/poisoned with a liberal-modernist atmosphere. God help us.

    Its very hard to stop caring about ones faith or not take it seriously when one can die for professing it. Sometimes, I think that it will take another Catholic persecution for the “catholics” to wake up and be catholic again.

  6. Panterina says:

    Wow, what a story, and what a great analysis. Thank you, theloveofwisdome, for sharing it with us!

  7. I remember a comment in my blog saying that Muslims are respectful of other people’s religion.

    I have heard it quite a lot of times that the poor living conditions of the Philippines forces Filipinos out of the country, making them “missionaries of the Faith” of some sort. Pinoy Catholics are proud of our Faith and I have heard countless stories from Filipino workers abroad who come home, being ridiculed and even prosecuted for being Catholics. Even wearing a rosary ring can send you back home…

    Saudi Arabia is STILL the only country that does not allow freedom of religion and expression. I hope the anti-Catholics and atheists out there would bark at this tree!

  8. Konichiwa says:

    Very sad and scary at the same time. I have heard stories first hand from a Filipino coworker who worked as a nurse in Middle East. The Muslims were coercive and tried to convert her. She feared for her life, and thus had to be careful what she said to them.

  9. kelleyb says:

    theloveofwisdome, thank you for your story.

    If I write what I want to say I will have to go to confession. God help us. Our Lady of the Rosary protect us.

  10. albizzi says:

    Things are changing slowly in Saudi Arabia since sources say that the priest and the attendants have been charged, detained for a few times and released.
    Our company’s agent in Saudi Arabia is a french woman. She decided recently no longer to veil herself since some high ranked saudi women decline to do too. A policeman in the street ordered her to veil and she replied she doesn’t care bcs she is a christian and the law is for muslims only: He gave up.
    In Algeria, some christians were charged for not fasting during ramadan: The judge released them on the account that there is no law in Algeria that oblige the non muslims to fast. See attached in French the article about the freedom to fast that was written in an algerian newspaper:
    Its somehow amazing. That would not have been possible some years ago.

  11. TJerome says:

    Don’t worry, Obama will ride to their rescue since he’s been courting the Catholic vote!

  12. irishgirl says:

    TJerome-I hope you’re being sarcastic in your comment!

    Iconophilios-you’re absolutely right. We can’t be tough on Moslem nations when they persecute Christians because we are too dependent on their oil for our own survival.

    theloveoofwisdom-what a horrid story.

    Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Victory, please help us!

  13. Patikins says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z for posting this. I will post it to my Facebook page. I don’t think many Americans realize that the religious freedom we have is the US (and to a greater or lesser degree throughout the western world) is not something to be taken for granted. No one could pay be enough to live and work, let alone visit a country were I would not be allowed to openly practice my faith.

    Thank you theloveofwisdome for sharing your story. I’m glad your father was able to obtain the release of Fr. Pascal.

    I’m sure there are many unknown saints in the making in muslim countries. Pray for us, Sts. Nunilo and Alodia.

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    Also if an American woman marries a Saudi man and she allows him to take her to Arabia to live, she gets the shock of her life, even if she isn’t Catholic. Women are treated like livestock; there is no routine medical care; and if she has a child, she is not free to remove it from the country because of Saudi law which says that children are the property of the man–no matter what.

    In college, a friend of mine married a graduating student from Arabia and they moved there. She complained mightily I guess, because thank God he sent her home on “vacation” to see her mother after 2 years of horror. This doesn’t usually happen. She had been taking a maintenance medicine for an ailment before going and hadn’t had it in the whole 2 years of her captivity. She was browbeat and neglected, treated like an outsider by the whole household the whole time. Once home on “vacation” she received a nasty letter from her husband, saying he had divorced her, which constitutes divorce in Saudi Arabia for men (but not for women). When she checked, had she tried to go back and get her things, she would have been denied entry into the country, a woman alone. However, she gave up on her things. The big consolation was that she had not conceived children. If she had conceived children, they would have been born by midwife, and then she would not have been able to bring them back with her. They would have been lost to her.

    PS There is a thriving business in spiriting away the children of Saudi divorces by kidnapping them and bringing them out of Saudi Arabia. It’s very expensive, but sometimes it can be done. IF a woman doesn’t do it, she will almost surely never see her children again.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    So, beware. Middle Eastern men are never decent marriage risks, no matter how nice they are, how suave they appear, how much money they have or how crazy head-over-heels a girl might be over them. You cross the international border and it all changes: from freedom to slavery, from the 21st century to the 7th, from medical care to neglect, from riches to penury, the minute you cross that line. It’s another world.

    It’s too bad more Americans & Europeans don’t comprehend these simple facts, for this reason and also for the fact that all different rules than we expect are being used in international affairs and so on. Muslims feel perfectly free to lie; it’s allowed in their culture.

  16. albizzi says:

    Yes, Catholicmidwest, you are right.
    Muslims are liars. I know this better than anyone since I make business with them in Middleast and Northern Africa.
    They are liars and stealers: Because lying to or stealing a non muslim (= an infidel) is not a sin in their religion.
    Once you have understood that, you may deal with them.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    One of my friends from Germany, a highly intelligent lady with a doctorate from Cambridge, married a Muslim man in Germany. They had two adorable girls. One day, while she was out, he left with the girls, both young-about four and six-and returned to Saudi Arabia. When he got there, he divorced the wife and claimed the children for himself and his new Muslim wife. My friend tried through the courts and through the embassies to get her children back. She never even saw them again. Needless to say, she was betrayed, and life was very painful for her, losing both of her girls, and realizing the husband she loved had done this to her. I am sorry, but people here need to wake up to what sharia law really is-a law wherein all “infidels” are second-class citizens, and where only Muslims and Muslim men at that, have any rights. Christians and “seculars” are both regarded as less than human and only worthy is converting to Islam. This dichotomy of viewpoint between the Muslim and non-Muslim world is in the Koran and the hadiths.

  18. rocbin says:

    I felt compelled to comment on the post by “theloveofwisdome”, here in Ireland as you may know we had a “catholic” woman, who also happens to be a minister of the Eucharist, calling for a boycott of the Mass for one Sunday as a sign of people’s discontent at the fact that women are not allowed to be ordained priests. This, however, was compounded when a well known priest came out and criticised the Bishops because they said that there was no difference in Mass attendance on the day. He accused them of being “triumphalist”.
    We are so lucky here in the west, that we have freedom to practice our religion…we are so unlucky that those charged with passing on the faith are so self-obsessed that our religion is becoming more and more protestant. This is not to suggest that protestans are self obsessed, but that many who claim to be Catholic do not even know what transubstantiation is.
    If that is the type of religion I wanted, I would long ago have joined an Anglican or other church.
    It sure looks as if the final sentence of “theloveofwisdome’s” post is prophetic. God help us!!!

  19. DHippolito says:

    So what is the Vatican going to do about this situation — especially with its vaunted diplomatic corps, its concern for human rights around the world and Pope Benedict’s demand for “reciprocity”?

    Can you spell “nothing,” boys and girls? I knew you could…..

    Saudi Arabia is a major ally of the USA in the middle east. Iraq under Saddam Hussein had freedom of religion. Go figure…

    Geoffrey, I have one question: Would you like Saddam Hussein back? If so, how will you explain that to the thousands (if not millions) he massacred and tortured?

  20. Bornacatholic says:

    Daddy Bush and Cheney both knew that removing Saddam from power was stupid; and then along came stupid to do as stupid does and now American women and men will forever be stationed there to protect a govt – with its Sharia Based Constitution – we helped establish.

    The Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) – initially the name for this execrable stupidity – has been a total and enduring failure and Cheney knew that removing Saddam from power was so stupid that he was willing to be interviewed on TV about it.

  21. DHippolito says:

    BornaCatholic, I suggest you read the newspapers. Pres. Obama (whom I did not vote for) will withdraw troops by a certain date (which I forget right now). While that might not be the best tactic, it’s certainly not having American men and women being stationed there forever.

    I also suggest you read some history. Why do you think we have bases in Germany? Why do you think we belong to NATO? To protect governments we helped establish (in this case, the democratic government of the former West Germany) and to protect them from possible Communist domination.

    West Germany was not the only government we “established” in Europe. The United States almost single-handedly rebuilt Western Europe through the Marshall Plan. Do some research to find out what that was.

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