In Saudi Arabia, where conversion to any religion other than Islam is a capital crime, the Internet is making an impact, leading to both conversions to Christ and increased persecution. Recently, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia demanded that former newspaper columnist and pro-democracy Saudi activist Hamza Kashgari be tried in Islamic court for three of his Twitter posts. Although the tweets merely supported the basic human right of free expression, the Grand Mufti deemed them blasphemous because they described Kashgari’s imagined visit with Muhammad, the Islamic prophet.
Following Saudi King Abdullah’s order for his arrest, Kashgari fled the country and sought political asylum in Malaysia. Malaysian authorities, however, deported him to face the Saudi apostasy charges.
Saudi Arabia perennially reigns among the worst persecutors of Christians according to Open Doors’ annual World Watch List that ranks the 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is most severe. This year Saudi Arabia ranks third. This nation where Islam was born some 1,400 years ago has been closed for centuries to the gospel. Its legal system is founded on Islamic law, and conversion to another religion is a capital crime.
All churches are banned in Saudi Arabia. Saudi religious police have raided Christian services held in private homes and arrested Christians from the Philippines and other countries for worshiping Jesus. The utter lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia was underscored last month when the Grand Mufti declared the necessity of destroying all churches in the region. This fatwa, a legal opinion or decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader, prompted a Filipino human rights watch group to advise migrant workers from the Philippines, many of whom are Christian, to exercise caution while conducting religious activities in their homes.
Four years ago, blog postings led to the “honor killing” of Fatima Al-Matayri, 26, who came to faith through the internet and posted about her conversion on blogs. Her brother became enraged after finding the Christian writings on her laptop. After attempts to force her to repent of her “blasphemy” against Islam failed, he cut out her tongue and burned her to death. In the hours before she was martyred for her faith in Christ, she composed a poem encouraging Muslims to let Christ guide and enlighten them.
Father, You know the spiritual darkness that engulfs Saudi Arabia. Thank You that through the means of the internet You have drawn to Yourself the hearts of some. We pray Your protection over them as this same means can be a source of discovery with the consequence of imprisonment and even death. Thank You for the testimony of Fatima who, even as a new Christian, remained faithful in the face of a horrific death. She is free and rejoicing in Your presence now, and for that we are glad. May the impact of what occurred and her testimony, break through the hardness of her brother’s heart. We pray for the release of Kashgari and courage as he faces charges of apostasy. And we lift up the many Christians who worship in secret, that You might grant boldness and wisdom as they face opposition. We pray for the light of the gospel to break through in Saudi Arabia and completely dispel the darkness. In the name of Jesus, who is the light, Amen.