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FAITH UNDER FIRE

Christian women report being assaulted after arrests

International community asked to pressure Saudi Arabia on basic rights

BOSTON – Saudi Arabian authorities are adding sexual assault to their routine for processing prisoners when they are Christian women, according to a new report that is imploring the international community to pressure the restrictive Islamic nation on basic human rights.

International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho says the 35 women prisoners were arrested for meeting for a prayer time, and they are reporting that they were molested.

“The female prisoners have told us about how they were sexually harassed. When the Saudis arrested them, they knew the Ethiopians were Christians,” Racho said.

“They took off the women’s clothes and touched them. When the strip searching was going on, the officers were touching the women,” Racho said.

Racho adds that some of the details are graphic.

“They were using gloves to strip search and they were putting their fingers into their genitals,” Racho said.

“This is a very, very serious accusation of harassment and we want the international community to look into this,” Racho said. “The Saudis have to stop harassing these Christians.”

Racho adds that the treatment of the Christians is the opposite of Saudi public statements.

“The Saudis in the past have publicly said that they want religious tolerance and dialogue between the people of faith,” Racho said. “The Saudi king and the Saudi government have been very active in promoting peaceful existence and religious freedom.”

WND reported in December that Saudi authorities raided the mostly Ethiopian prayer meeting in Jeddah and charged all 35 with “Illicit Mingling.”

Members of the group were taken into custody and moved to an undisclosed location.

Racho says the Christians have been behind bars for over a month, but ICC is not content to let the incarceration continue.

“ICC has been working hard to highlight the plight of the Christian prisoners. We’ve been issuing press releases and asking our supporters to call the Saudi Embassy,” Racho said.

“We’ve been gathering petitions to ask the Saudi Arabian government to release the prisoners,” Racho said.

He also says his organization has spoken with members of Congress and to the State Department.

State Department spokeswomen Molly Lynn Westrate says the department has been pressuring the Saudi regime.

“Absolutely we have. We call on the Saudi government to recognize religious freedom and to permit private worship in individual’s homes,” Westrate said.

The Saudi government has not responded to WND’s request for an interview.

WND reported in January that Open Doors’ America’s “World Watch” puts Saudi Arabia as the third worst country for religious persecution. Muslim nations lead the pack.

Nine of the 10 worst nations for persecution of Christians are run essentially under Islamic law, and the “Arab Spring” across parts of northern Africa has led to a surge of repression, according to the global assessment.

“The top 10 in this year’s report are in order, North Korea, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iran, the Maldives, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Iraq and Pakistan,” the story said.

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