Catholic priest expelled from Saudi Arabia

By staff writers
April 10, 2006

Catholic priest expelled from Saudi Arabia

-10/04/06

By î">Fran Race

A Catholic Priest has been forced to leave Saudi Arabia

On 5th April Father George Joshua from Kerala, India, was arrested while leading mass privately with Catholics in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and imprisoned for four days.

Fr Joshua had gone to Saudi Arabia to provide pastoral care in the run up to Easter, as part of a mission to support Catholics in the country.

He was arrested by seven officers of the muttawa, the police force devoted to the enforcement of Saudi Arabiaís religious laws.

Islam is the official religion of the country, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims.

The Government also enforces a strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam. Muslims who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned Salafi (commonly called "Wahhabi") tradition can face severe repercussions.

A few years ago the Saudi government bowed to international pressure, and allowed the practice of other faiths in private, however this still leaves Christians in Saudi Arabia with little or no access to pastoral care.
Despite assurances, the muttawa still arrest, imprison and torture many who practice other faiths, even in the privacy of their own homes.

The exact nature of the treatment of Fr Joseph at the hands of the Saudi police is not known. After being released on Saturday 8th April he left for India.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates there are as many as 1 million Catholics in the country. In order to celebrate the central feast days they often plan holidays in the Emirates, Bahrain or Abu Dhabi, where they are free to attend mass.

Fran Race is a reporter for Ekklesia and a member of All Hallows Anglican church in Leeds. She can be contacted: fran.race@ekklesia.co.uk

Catholic priest expelled from Saudi Arabia

-10/04/06

By î">Fran Race

A Catholic Priest has been forced to leave Saudi Arabia

On 5th April Father George Joshua from Kerala, India, was arrested while leading mass privately with Catholics in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and imprisoned for four days.

Fr Joshua had gone to Saudi Arabia to provide pastoral care in the run up to Easter, as part of a mission to support Catholics in the country.

He was arrested by seven officers of the muttawa, the police force devoted to the enforcement of Saudi Arabiaís religious laws.

Islam is the official religion of the country, and the law requires that all citizens be Muslims.

The Government also enforces a strictly conservative version of Sunni Islam. Muslims who do not adhere to the officially sanctioned Salafi (commonly called "Wahhabi") tradition can face severe repercussions.

A few years ago the Saudi government bowed to international pressure, and allowed the practice of other faiths in private, however this still leaves Christians in Saudi Arabia with little or no access to pastoral care.
Despite assurances, the muttawa still arrest, imprison and torture many who practice other faiths, even in the privacy of their own homes.

The exact nature of the treatment of Fr Joseph at the hands of the Saudi police is not known. After being released on Saturday 8th April he left for India.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops estimates there are as many as 1 million Catholics in the country. In order to celebrate the central feast days they often plan holidays in the Emirates, Bahrain or Abu Dhabi, where they are free to attend mass.

Fran Race is a reporter for Ekklesia and a member of All Hallows Anglican church in Leeds. She can be contacted: fran.race@ekklesia.co.uk

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.