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The Saudi Arabian government has reportedly passed a law that imposes the death penalty on people caught smuggling Bibles into the majority-Muslim country.
According to the HeartCry Missionary Society, the Saudi government issued an official statement signifying that capital punishment may now be used on those who smuggle Bibles into the desert nation, where the royal family upholds a strict Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam.
The society's report added that the death penalty, which usually comes in the form of beheadings, can also be used against people who simply distribute the Bible and all other "publications that have prejudice to any other religious belief other than Islam." This means that anyone handing out any kind of religious literature that is not of Islamic faith can legally be executed.
The death penalty also applies to people caught smuggling illegal narcotics into the country.
Although the Saudi government is said to have released an "official statement", Saudi Arabia's U.S. Embassy and Saudi sources at the United Nations have yet to comment or confirm the law. According to World Net Daily, the news source made three attempts to reach the Saudi Embassy's press officer, but the officer has yet to reply.
"Sometimes they don't want to say anything [to the media]," a Saudi Embassy worker, who filed WND's inquiries, said.
Although the United States considers Saudi Arabia to be one of its biggest allies and gives the county millions of dollars in military aid, Saudi Arabia was listed in the 2005 International Religious Freedom report as one of the worst countries in the world for religious liberties. Also, Saudi Arabia ranks sixth on the Open Door's Ministry 2014 World Watch List of most repressive countries for Christians.
The International Religious Freedom report stated that Saudi customs agents often open mail to screen for any banned religious literature, which also includes Sunni literature that is ruled offensive to Salafi traditions. Also, all students in public schools are forced to learn and adhere to Sunni traditions.
With up to 2 million Christians currently in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government has often detained people for religious reasoning. The government has made it illegal for anyone in the country to convert from Islam to any other religion, as it is considered apostasy and is a major offense that is punishable by death.
The government also does not allow any church or institution to operate, that is not of Islamic faith. Police often conduct raids on underground places of worship. According to BosNewsLife, 30 Christians were detained in September after attending an underground house church worship ceremony. The news site also reported in 2013 that 53 mostly women Ethiopian Christians were detained after attending a prayer service at a private home.
"It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches," Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told Fox News earlier this year. "This is enforced even though there are over 2 million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments."
According to a Vimeo Prayercast on the topic of persecuted Christians in Saudi Arabia, Christians in the country are "raped, abducted, murdered, and beaten on a daily basis."
But despite the extreme hostility towards Christianity in the country, Christians in the desert nation still find ways to stay true to Jesus.
"Saudis who accept Christ as their Savior are choosing to pick up a cross of ostracism, discrimination, harassment, and even death. They risk losing their jobs, access to education for their children, or even the right to basic utilities like water and electricity," the prayercast states. "Yet the Church flourishes under persecution, and the body of underground believers in Saudi Arabia is no exception. No one is beyond the reach of God's hand; pray for the Saudis to have the courage to take hold of it."