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BWA exec urges efforts for religious freedom in Saudi


WASHINGTON (BP)–The Baptist World Alliance has asked the governments of the United States and United Kingdom to do what they can to help Christians in Saudi Arabia gain religious freedom.

According to BWA officials, Christians in the Middle East country have no church buildings and are harassed when they meet in homes, and it is against the law to own a Bible.

Denton Lotz, BWA general secretary, made the request for U.S. and U.K. action after a visit to Lebanon March 21-26 when Lebanese believers discussed concerns they have for believers in Saudi Arabia, who have almost no religious freedom.

Lotz was told, for example, of the imprisonment three years ago of a homeowner and other Christians who were meeting in a home in Saudi Arabia. Lotz had no further information about how long they were imprisoned or if they remain in prison.

Lotz, in an April 17 letter to U.S. President Bill Clinton, recounted the arrests and, he wrote, “On behalf of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, we plead with you to work with the Saudi government and other countries in the Middle East to assure religious freedom for all people.”

Lotz sent a similar letter to John Major, prime minister of the United Kingdom.


In the spirit of freedom for all religions and with a sense of Christian compassion, the BWA also sent condolences to His Majesty King Fahd of Saudi Arabia on the death of more than 400 Muslim pilgrims to Mecca in a fire that swept through their tents.

Most of the dead were pilgrims from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and it is believed the fire started from gas cylinders used for cooking.

While the official death toll from the April 15 fire is 343, news sources say Indian diplomats and Saudi aid workers speaking anonymously report some of the more than 1,300 Muslim pilgrims who were badly burned or crushed in a stampede have died in hospitals.

Lotz expressed sympathy for the families who lost loved ones in the fire. “Please be assured of the prayers and concern for the well-being of the families who suffered great loss,” he wrote to the Saudi leader.