Saudi Arabia--An Eritrean Christian is facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia after being arrested for sharing his faith with Muslims.
Mussie Eyob was detained by the authorities at a mosque in Saudi's second largest city, Jeddah, on 12 February. He had gone there to meet and talk with local Muslims after speaking about Christianity at the Eritrean Embassy for three days. Eyob was arrested for preaching to Muslims, an offence that carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.
Eyob, who was initially assumed to have mental health problems, was examined by doctors, who confirmed that he is fit for trial and sentencing. He was then transferred to the notorious high-security Briman Prison. His family are very concerned for his welfare there.
They visited Eyob on 20 March and found that he had lost weight, though he was in relatively good spirits. He said that he is ready to die for his faith in Christ.
Eyob, who committed to follow Christ just over two years ago, felt compelled to share his faith with local Muslims, despite the danger.
Saudi Arabia is a strictly Islamic country that follows an extreme and puritanical version of Islam, Wahhabism. The country claims that the Quran is its constitution and that all its laws and regulations are promulgated in line with sharia, which prescribes the death penalty for converts from Islam. Consequently most converts keep their faith secret.
All forms of public religious activities other than those consistent with the government's own interpretation of Sunni Islam are banned. The government has stated that expatriate Christians, of whom there are many in Saudi Arabia, are free to worship in private. But the religious police (mutawaah) sometimes raid private worship services.
The country has one of the highest rates of executions in the world. In late 2009, Amnesty International denounced the presence of at least 141 people on death row in Saudi Arabia, including 104 foreign nationals. (Source)