"The Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth it is this, and Protestantism has ever felt it so; to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." (-John Henry Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine).

"Where the bishop is, there let the people gather; just as where ever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church". -St. Ignatius of Antioch (ca 110 AD)a martyr later thrown to the lions, wrote to a church in Asia Minor. Antioch was also where the term "Christian" was first used.

“But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15

"This is the sole Church of Christ, which in the Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic." -CCC 811

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Indian Catholics fast for the synod and religious freedom in Saudi Arabia

Update on the Synod here
Fr George Joshua, an Indian priest, leads the activity. He is an important figure in the struggle for the religious freedom of Indian Catholics living in Saudi Arabia. He tells AsiaNews about the suffering and abuses inflicted upon on the million Christians living in the Muslim country, where every religion other than Islam, is banned.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques visited Pope Benedict XVI  in 2006 at the  Vatican City, a first such visit by a Saudi Monarch.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – More than 700 Indian Christians from the Christ Army for Saudi Arabia (CASA) are fasting and praying for the success of the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East and for religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. Fr George Joshua, an Indian priest who belongs to the Malankara rite, is their leader; he provides spiritual support to Catholic migrant workers from Indian living in Saudi Arabia.

In 2006, Fr Joshua spent four days in a Saudi prison for celebrating Mass in a private home and was eventually expelled. A year later, he set up CASA in Trivandarum, Kerala. Across the state, the movement holds prayer meetings to focus attention on the fate of Christians in Saudi Arabia.

“There is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia and no official pastoral care for the over a million who live in the country, of which nearly 3 lakhs are Indian,” he said. One lakh corresponds to 100,000.

Over the past few months, CASA has prayed for the Synod hoping that Catholics living in the desert kingdom can one day be free to worship as they please.

In the kingdom, priests are not allowed to celebrate Mass, he said. Any activity has to be underground, away from the eyes and ears of the Muttawa, the Saudi religious police.

“Recently, a French priest was picked up for celebrating Mass to various groups,” Fr Joshua said. “He was released only after many hours of interrogation.

Christians caught praying together are arrested right away, imprisoned and then thrown out of the country.

“Catholics can only pray in the privacy of their home and alone. They are not allowed to pray with family or friends,” the priest explained.

However, “Starting in 1995, new religious movements have emerged with lay people secretly praying and reading the Bible. In addition, some are even able to teach the catechism to children.”

The only priest of Indian origin in Saudi Arabia is a certain Fr John, who caters to the needs of English- and Malay-speaking Catholics, Fr Joshua said.

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