Dozens of Christians Arrested in Saudi Arabia

Activists call for U.S. to use influence to protect Christians in Saudi Arabia

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad walks with Saudi Arabia's King. / AP
September 16, 2014

On Friday, 28 people were rounded up and arrested by hard-line Islamists from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, informally referred to as the Haia.

"A citizen reported suspicious activities in the house to the Haia and alleged that an Indian man had turned his residence into a church," a Saudi newspaper reported.

The 28 arrested were attending a prayer meeting at a home in Khafji, an eastern Saudi city. Several Bibles were confiscated in the crackdown. They have not been heard from or seen since. The English-language paper Saudi Gazette reported that the arrests included men, women, and children. It is unclear whether a court date has been set.

This is the latest of a series of crackdowns on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia, which bans non-Islam religions. More than 90 percent of the Saudi citizens are Sunnis, but at least 3.5 million Christians live in the Gulf Arab region, mostly Catholic workers from India and the Philippines.

"Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy," Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told "It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments."

Wolf said he plans to press the State Department and the U.S. ambassador in Riyadh to assist the arrested Christians.

"I hope our government will speak up," Wolf said.