Yohan Nese, 31 and Vasantha Sekhar Vara, 28, both Christians from India, were arrested on Jan. 21 when mutaween (religious police) raided an apartment where they had attended a prayer meeting. According to Compass News religious police interrogated and beat them to the point that they suffered injuries. The next morning, Jan. 22, authorities took them to the Religious Court in Riyadh, where they were accused of converting Muslims to Christianity and sentenced to 45 days in prison. To date they have been in prison for 70 days.
Nese and Vara’s situation in prison is “horrible,” according to a source. “There is no place to even sit. Only two hours a day they are sleeping in shifts. When brother Yohan is sleeping, brother Sekhar needs to stand, and when brother Sekhar wants to sleep, brother Yohan needs to stand. I don’t know how many more days they have to continue this.”
One week after his arrest, Vara was able to use a phone to call his family and pastor in India. His wife, Sandhya Vara, who is expecting their first child in three months, said she has not heard of him since.
Vara’s pastor in India said that Vara had told him by telephone that he was in prison for religious reasons and that he had been pressured to convert to Islam but had refused. “If I have to die for my God, I will die for him here,” Vara said, according to Pastor Jeldi. In a separate report Saudi authorities have detained an Eritrean Christian preacher Mussie Eyob on Feb. 12, at a mosque in Haya Roda, according to Asmarino Independent. Mussie, who converted to Christianity two years ago, acted on his desire to evangelize the community and started preaching to members at the Eritrean Embassy. After three days he then went to the local mosque to share his beliefs with attendants but was arrested by authorities for preaching to Muslims, an offence that carries a death sentence in Saudi Arabia. The authorities had Mussie examined by doctors who declared him fit for trial and sentencing. He was then transferred to the notorious Briman High Security Prison. Friends and family, who visited Mussie in prison, said he is in relatively good spirit. However, they are very concerned for his welfare and have appealed for advocacy on his behalf. Asmarino Independent reported the following, “Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of executions in the world. According to Amnesty International statistics on death sentences, at least 69 were executed in Saudi Arabia during 2009 and 102 in 2008. During late 2009, Amnesty International announced the presence of at least 141 people on death row in Saudi Arabia, including 104 foreign nationals. Migrant workers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are the main victims.”
Father, we pray for these men while in prison. Supernaturally strengthen them, especially Nese and Vara in their struggle to survive in tight quarters. Father, provide for their every need; be it physical or spiritual. And Father, we pray that Mussie will completely put his trust in You for the outcome of his sentence. We also pray for the families and friends of these men that they experience Your grace in the midst of this trying time, in particular, Vara’s pregnant wife Sandhya. Fill them with Your presence as remain faithful to You. Amen
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