Even before Saudi Arabian religious police raided his church and took him to jail, Oswaldo Magdangal sensed death knocking.
As pastor of the largest secret church in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic police, or muttawa, considered Magdangal "enemy number one." Magdangal's instinct turned out to be correct. Not only did the muttawa arrest him, they sentenced him to death by hanging. After worldwide protests, however, Saudi Arabia deported him to his native Philippines on Christmas Eve, 1992, just hours before the scheduled execution.
Magdangal's arrest came 21 months after the muttawa first located his nondenominational church in the Musalat district of Riyadh, where 300 to 400 people secretly met each week to worship.
While the church took many steps to prevent detection, including soundproofing the building, installing electronic locks, and assigning each church member a different arrival time, the tip to the muttawa came from a regular attendee.
The informant, also a Filipino, had recently converted to Islam. However, Magdangal believes his friend's betrayal was motivated more by the financial reward for his arrest than Muslim beliefs.
After his arrest, Magdangal says, interrogators spent three-and-a-half hours slapping, kicking, hitting, and lashing him with a cane on his back, palms, and feet. Magdangal says they were particularly angry about a booklet found in his home: A Prophecy on the Fall of Islam.
The Filipino pastor, who came to Saudi Arabia to work as an administrator for the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, stood trial for constructing a church. After two months of incarceration, a guard told Magdangal that an execution date had been set.
Magdangal's wife, Matilda, began contacting friends and government officials in Manila. ...1
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