Tuesday, February 12, 2002
The New York Times has an article in today's paper on the challenges faced by Christians in Saudi Arabia.
The situation is particularly painful for American troops. They are offered a range of religious services, with the help of military chaplains.
But they must worship in private, even though many of them are protecting the kingdom from outside threats. And soldiers who wear a cross or a Star of David must keep the symbols hidden.
"We have all these fine young American men and women over here," one chaplain said. "They're great Americans. They're great soldiers. Yet they're expected to surrender their religious practices when they arrive."
President Bush has called Islam a great religion and described the American people as both religious and tolerant. When he addressed a joint session of Congress shortly after Sept. 11, he said that the "barbarians" who attacked the United States "hate our freedoms, our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other."
But neither Mr. Bush nor any of his national security advisers have criticized the refusal of Saudi Arabia to allow Americans and other foreigners to worship freely. The United States, like other governments, has agreed to a compact dictated by the Saudis: if you have to practice your religion, do it in secret.
The United States' relative silence on this religious bigotry is unacceptable. Saudi rulers are safe and happy because the United States has assured them that Christians will sacrifice their lives for their country. The least the Saudis can do is allow U.S. soldiers to worship without restriction. They'd also do good to allow their own citizens the same freedom.