by Heather Clark
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Recent reports state that officials in the Islamic country of Saudi Arabia have passed a law that may impose the death penalty on Bible smugglers and any others distributing religious materials that are not of the Muslim religion.
“[T]he new law extends to the importing of all illegal drugs and ‘all publications that have a prejudice to any other religious beliefs other than Islam,’” Paul Washer’s HeartCry Missionary Society outlines in a post on their website. “In other words, anyone who attempts to bring Bibles or gospel literature into the country will have all materials confiscated and be imprisoned and sentenced to death.”
It points to an article on the Copts Today website, which notes that “indecent materials and publications” are also included in the customs prohibition.
Reporters have attempted to obtain confirmation of the report from Saudi Arabia’s U.S. Embassy press officer in Washington, but the information has neither been confirmed or denied.
“Sometimes they don’t want to say anything (to the media),” a representative named Cecelia told WND.
The United Nations has also declined to comment on whether or not the report is accurate.
As the HeartCry Missionary Society notes in pointing to a video on Prayercast, Saudi Arabia has a long history of hostility toward Christians, as it is illegal to convert to Christianity in the country, a crime considered to be apostasy against Islam and punishable by death.
“Christians are raped, abducted, murdered, and beaten on a daily basis. Saudis who accept Christ as their Savior are choosing to pick up a cross of ostracism, discrimination, harassment, and even death,” it outlines. “They risk losing their jobs, access to education for their children, or even the right to basic utilities like water and electricity.”
Open Doors International likewise reports that Christians are forced to worship in secret as it classifies Saudi Arabia as #6 on its “World Watch List” of the 100 most dangerous places to live as a Christian. Saudi Arabia is the home of Mecca and the “Mosque of the Prophet,” which contains the tomb of the Islamic prophet Mohammad.
“The open practice of any religion other than Islam is forbidden here, and conversion to another faith is punishable by death. Most Christians are ex-pats from Asia or Africa,” it states. “During 2013, several Christian migrant fellowships were raided by police, and tens of worshipers detained and deported. Muslim-background believers run the risk of honor killing if their faith is discovered.”
The U.S. Department of State noted several other cases in its 2009 report on religious freedom in the country.
“On January 13, 2009, [Hamoud Saleh] Al-Amri was arrested for discussing his Christian faith on his blog,” it explained. “The case received international attention and advocacy groups such as the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) campaigned for Al-Amri’s release.”
“On January 29, 2009, Sabri Bogday, a Turkish barber, returned to Turkey after the King [of Saudi Arabia] pardoned him,” the government report also outlined. “On March 31, 2008, Bogday was sentenced to death after two men reported to authorities that he blasphemed God and the Prophet Muhammad in his barber shop. On May 1, 2008, an appellate court upheld his conviction of blasphemy, necessitating the pardon.”
“On August 12, 2008, Okhdood.com and Gulfnews.com reported that a member of the CPVPV in the Eastern Province murdered his sister after confirming she had converted to Christianity,” it continued. “She had reportedly revealed the story of her conversion on a website posting. The story was picked up and widely reported by other Internet news outlets, some of which provided additional detail, including that she wrote about her family’s hostility toward her after heated discussions about her new faith.”
Despite the consequences, a number of Muslims are receiving the gospel nonetheless.
“[A] small but growing number of Muslims are coming to Christ and sharing their faith on the internet and satellite TV,” Open Doors USA states.
“[T]he Church flourishes under persecution, and the body of underground believers in Saudi Arabia is no exception,” adds Prayercast. “No one is beyond the reach of God’s hand; pray for the Saudis to have the courage to take hold of it.”