bONE MORE NEWS FROM THE RELIGION OF TOLERANCE. ARE YOU FEELING THE TOLERANCE YET ?[/b]
Posted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 4:48 pm Post subject: Heresy! A catholic priest removed from Saudi Arabia
In a Saudi jail I shared the suffering of the Crucified Christ, says Father George
by Nirmala Carvalho
In an interview with AsiaNews, the priest tells how he was taken into custody after celebrating mass and undergoing an interrogation. Saudi religious police knew of everyone’s of his moves.
Trivandrum (AsiaNews) – “It was a call to share in the suffering of Christ,” said Fr George Joshua, 41 as he described the days he spent in a Riyadh prison and his expulsion from Saudi Arabia, guilty only of celebrating mass in a country that bans all religious practices, except for those of Islam.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaNews, Father George, a Catholic Malankar priest, tells the story of his brief odyssey. It all began last week when he travelled to Saudi Arabia with the blessing of his bishop to prepare Easter celebrations for the thousands of Indian Catholics living in the desert kingdom without the benefit of priestly assistance, the Eucharist or catechesis.
On April 5, he was in Riyadh in a private hall with a group of Catholics to celebrate mass. “I started the Eucharist at 8:30 pm for the ill and the suffering,” he said. “The Malankar rite is very elaborate and the ceremony lasted till 10:30 pm. I had just removed my vestments when a group of Muttawa (religious police) agents and two regular policemen arrived. The Muttawa agents are dressed in a special way and I first thought they were priests who had come to join us.
“They came after me right away, asking me where I had been, describing my activities, the prayer meetings I held in private homes, etc.,” he said.
“They wanted to know what kind of visa I had and I told them a business visa. The Muttawa agents then told me that it was illegal to engage in Christian activities without a special visa for clergymen. And I told them that I was a priest and that Jesus Christ was my business and so a visa business was appropriate.”
“The agents forced me to put on the vestments and stand in front of the table used as altar and in front of a cross. They took lots of pictures to use as evidence that I was a Christian priest who had engaged in illegal religious activities.”
”At one point they made me talk to someone at Muttawa headquarters. That someone shouted arrogantly at me over the phone: ‘Don’t you know that I can send you to prison for a year?’ he said. I told him that I was doing my work for ‘my’ people, not his. I said that I was not guilty. All I did was to help good Christians better love and serve your people. ‘That’s my business’,” I said. “Then, the agents took me and Thomas, a Sudanese guard, to an office.”
“The religious police came to the hall at 10.30 pm where I had just finished the service and interrogated me until 3 am before I was taken down to a command centre. From there I was taken to al-Badia police station and at 4:30 am I was thrown in jail,” Father George said.
“I felt a sense of peace and intense joy. Christ was born in a manger and died on the Cross. For me sharing his suffering this week, before Good Friday, was a special gift. I am blessed,” he added. Finally, “last Saturday night, I landed in Trivandrum (Kerala), where I was hosted in Archbishop’s Residence.
I can only say, wow, this man is brave, very brave.