RAS AL KHAIMAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (ANS) -- A Filipino pastor in the United Arab Emirates has been arrested for allegedly distributing Christian materials.
According to International Christian Concern, the Rev. Fernando Alconga, a Filipino pastor of the Redeemer and King Filipino Church of Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of Dubai on November 12, 2002.
Apparently, Rev. Alconga was asleep in his car at the Al Bustan Center in Al Qusais, Dubai when he was approached by two men requesting Christian materials in Arabic, International Christian Concern (ICC) reported. The previous day Rev. Alconga had given a package of information called "The God Story" to an Egyptian Arab outside of the same building, ICC said.
ICC reports that after being informed that he had no materials in Arabic, the men requested that Rev. Alconga show them his supply of materials in other languages, which he did. At that point the men identified themselves as CID agents and arrested Rev. Alconga for distributing Christian materials, which included cassette tapes, tracts, and New Testaments.
"Rev. Alconga was initially interrogated at the CID General Headquarters beside the Dubai police station," ICC said. "He was later moved to the Al Quasis Prison where he is currently being detained without bail. Members of the Council of Evangelical Churches (CEC), the group sponsoring Rev. Alconga, were told that he might be released on November 18 but were later informed that there would be a hearing of the case on December 1.
"When a representative of the CEC inquired about the trial on November 30, he was told that it had been postponed until further investigation could be carried out. However, the CEC learned on the morning of December 1 that the trial was indeed going to take place, but at a different location than originally planned.
"Thus, neither Rev. Alconga's legal counsel nor a representative from the Filipino Embassy were able to attend the hearing. Rev. Alconga was also refused a translator and was forced to sign documents in Arabic which he could not understand," ICC reported.
International Christian Concern and the Council of Evangelical Churches "request the immediate release of Rev. Alconga considering the nature of the arrest that took place and the charges against him."
Concerned parties may write to the Embassy of United Arab Emirates in the United States or directly to the President of the UAE at the addresses provided below. A sample letter is provided.
Ambassador Asri Said Ahmad al-Dhahiri
Embassy of the United Arab Emirates
3522 International Ct. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 243-240
Fax: (202) 243-2432
Salutation: Your Excellency
His Highness Al-Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan
President of the United Arab Emirates
Ruler of Abu Dhabi
PO Box 280, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Salutation: Your Highness
Here is an example of the type of letter you may send:
"I am writing to express my concern over the detention of Fernando Piedad Alconga (passport number BB724903). Mr. Alconga is a Filipino Christian and pastor of the Redeemer and King Filipino Church of Ras Al Khaimah. Rev. Alconga is sponsored by the Council of Evangelical Churches in the United Arab Emirates. His residence permit (#201/1991/27854) was issued on July 21, 2001.
"Rev. Alconga was arrested in Dubai on November 12, 2002 by two officers of the Criminal Investigation Department. On November 11, Rev. Alconga had offered some Christian material to an Arab expatriate man in al-Bustan Center in Dubai and the man accepted the material offered to him.
"I have received credible reports that, although Rev. Alconga is treated well in general, his requests for legal counsel and a translator have been denied and he has been pressured into signing documents in Arabic, a language he does not understand.
"According to international law, the right to freedom of opinion and expression should only be restricted to protect national security, public order, or public health or morals, or in case of violation of someone else's rights or reputation (Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil & Political Rights).
"Rev. Alconga's action of only giving religious materials to those who expressed an interest in receiving it does not violate the recipient's rights, nor does it appear to threaten national security, public order, health or morals. I believe that Rev. Alconga's action was a lawful exercise of his freedom of opinion and expression and I respectfully appeal to you for his immediate release.
Further information on this story may be obtained from:
International Christian Concern
2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #941
Washington, DC 20006-1846
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