Saudi Authorities
Deport Another Filipino Christian
Saudis Use Arrests and Deportation
to Intimidate Other Christians
LONDON, 5 November 1998--Saudi Arabia has renewed 
attempts to crack down on Christian activity, according to 
Christian Solidarity Worldwide. On October 18 deportation 
police in Riyadh arrested Filipino Christian Penn Ronquillo, 
accusing him of engaging in "blasphemous activities," the 
London-based human rights organization says. Three days later 
Ronquillo was deported to the Philippines.

Earlier this month Saudi police arrested and deported another 
Filipino Christian pastor. Meanwhile sources indicate that as 
many as six other Filipinos recently have been deported and that 
seven more face possible deportation in the near future.

The "blasphemous activities" for which Ronquillo is accused 
apparently relate to his leadership of a Christian fellowship that 
allegedly participated in Bible distribution in Riyadh in June. At 
that time, one Dutch man and 11 Filipino Christians were 
detained and later deported after pressure from the international 
community led to their releases in mid July. CSW played an 
active part in this international campaign, mobilizing 
Parliamentarians in Brussels and Westminster on behalf of the 
prisoners.

In a telephone conversation with the Christian agency Middle 
East Concern, Ronquillo said he believes that one of the 
Filipinos arrested last June mentioned him as a leader in a 
Filipino underground house church in Riyadh. Ronquillo was 
arrested on the morning of October 18 and, following an 
explanation of the charges, asked to sign a statement concerning 
his engagement in blasphemous activities. He was detained for 
two days and at one point was held in a cell measuring 10 x 15 
meters with at least 60 other detainees. The prisoners had to 
sleep on the floor without enough blankets for each person. 
Ronquillo says that he was not mistreated during his 
imprisonment, nor was he questioned. On October 20 he was 
taken to the airport and deported to Manila.

Sources indicate that the Saudi Arabian government is using the 
arrest and deportation of Filipino Christians as a means of 
intimidating other believers. In practice, however, there is a 
hierarchy of penalties, with the nationals of poorer countries, 
such as the Philippines, being those most vulnerable. In a 1997 
report, Amnesty International stated that "there appears to be 
discrimination in the pattern of arrest on the basis of nationality. 
Of the 329 Christian worshippers known to have been arrested 
in the kingdom since 1990, 325 were nationals of developing 
countries while four were from Western Europe and North 
America."

CSW’s European Union liaison Catherine Field says, "Unless 
the Saudi government receives a clear message from the 
international community reminding them that religious freedom 
is an internationally recognized human right, it is feared the 
situation may deteriorate. We must stand in solidarity with the 
Filipino believers and lodge formal requests with the Saudi 
government that it cease these arrests and deportation."

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

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