Geneva, Switzerland ... [ANN] Dr. Gianfranco Rossi, former Secretary-General of the International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty, spoke out against religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia during a United Nations committee on August 6.

Addressing the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Rossi, a Seventh-day Adventist, mentioned the recent visit of the Italian President to Saudi Arabia which was cut short when the President was prevented from celebrating mass.

"In Saudi Arabia, non-Islamic religious rites are forbidden, even in the privacy of the home," said Rossi in his presentation to the committee. "The Italian President was particularly annoyed because he had himself attended the inauguration of the Great Mosque in Rome, a project largely financed by Saudi Arabia. He had spoken out in favor of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia during his talks with King Fahd, and before leaving the country had told journalists that there was no freedom of worship in the country."

As a result of Rossi’s speech, the Saudi representative, Turki Al-Madi defended the position of his country in respecting religious freedom and human rights according to Sharia (Islamic) law.

On Nov. 27, Rossi received a letter of thanks from the President of Italy, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, in which he expressed his appreciation for Rossi’s comments.

"I sincerely thank you for your intervention at the United Nations concerning my visit to Saudi Arabia, and warmly encourage you to continue in your moral and civil work in favor of religious liberty in the world," said Scalfaro. [Jonathan Gallagher]