Saudi Arabia

Christmas in Another Home

By Clarace J. Galeno

The author works at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a nurse. She grew up in the parish of Holy Family, in Bacolod City which was run by the Columbans before. Clarace used to be an active member of the Legion of Mary while she was still here. Here she shares her longing for Christmas at home and how she tries to celebrate it in a country that doesn’t believe in it.

Clarace with colleagues as they try to celebrate Christmas in their workplace.

One of the sure ways to uplift a Filipino spirit is to have a thought of Christmas. It is always a positive memory that we all hold dear in our hearts. Mine is no difference, having grown up in a close family that keeps Christmas tradition faithfully. It always brings a smile recalling those 9 morning masses preceding Christmas -It brings a smile to see the Christmas lights in each home, the decors, gifts, and lovely Christmas carols, and the spirit of faith, hope and love that it all evokes. Those were such happy memories to start. Yet, changes do occur.

In 2007, I started working as a nurse at the Emergency Department in one of the hospitals in Riyadh. December is wintertime in the city but I never expected it to be that cold. I thought Riyadh is a desert country and so it would always be scorching with dry heat.

Winter then was the busiest time in Pediatric Emergency. Most children who were brought in were suffering from various respiratory problems. It was Christmas Eve but I had to work for a night shift duty. Of course, it is not always a happy disposition to work during such time when every Christian would want to spend it with their love ones together instead. The call of duty demanded me to be in the hospital and to do the job. It was really a chaotic night with all those different cases to attend to that I had forgotten that it was already midnight. It was Christmas!

Miracle For Donnie Ending

By Donnie Lama

Before I received the 70 lashes, I prayed to the Lord to bear the pain physically. I must also remember His word from I Peter: 12-14 “Do not be surprised, my dear friends, at the fiery test that is coming upon you. As if you are experiencing something unheard of. Be glad that you are sharing to some degree the suffering of Christ, in order that in the revealing of His Glory you may be full of joy. Happy are you if you are insulted because you are Christ’s followers; this means that the glorious Spirit, the Spirit of God, is resting on you”

A Miracle For Donnie Part III

By Donnie Lama

We continued the story of the arrest and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia of Donnie Lama for leading a Liturgy of the Word – with communion – for his fellow Catholics.

Finally, the court, the court summoned me. The judge confronted me with my admission that I preached as a Christian for 15 years. It said so in the paper. I placed my thumb mark on. On this basis, the court sent me to the Malaz Jail. To me, it was an improvement compared to the isolation cell where I was confined for the previous weeks. It was bigger and I could accept visitors. I was now in the national prison of Saudi Arabia. I found myself welcomed by several prisoners – Christian and Muslim. Most of them were Filipinos. The Filipino prisoners at the time were estimate to be at least a hundred. On the way to prison, I was submitting myself to the Lord: “Lord, help me to accept your will and your purposes for me, I entrust myself to you. Take care of my family for me. I cannot do anything anymore. I don’t know what will happen next. But I know that you will be with me.” Prison life was a miracle in itself for me. Surviving each day was grace enough from the Lord.

I Deny my Faith and I’m Free

Very early on, I was tempted to give up my Christian faith in exchange for freedom. Some Filipinos who had converted to the Muslim faith challenged me to do the same. My punishment would be lessened, they said, and I would be set free in no time at all; no questions asked. If not, I may die in prison, but it is not that easy to give up your own faith, I argued. I immediately recognized the devils voice as the proposal was being broached to me. “You’re stubborn! We are telling you the strategy and yet you persist in your religious crusade. You cannot eat religion!” I countered. “If you say that is the fastest way to freedom why are you still here?  Should you not have been released? Didn’t you give up your Christian faith for Islam?” the argument stopped there. I had just proven my point.

A Miracle For Donnie

First of a series by Donnie Lama

It was a case of mistaken identity. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was jailed by accident. But looking back on that fateful day I am certain that I was serving the right purpose of God.

The Saudi authorities were looking for a murderer. They though I was the murderer. But they found out later that I was not and I will never be the murderer. What they found in me instead after torture and maltreatment was a photo where I was holding up the body of Christ during communion service. The authorities did not find a gun or a knife or anything that would tie me to the killing incident. What they fund in my room was the reason why I was in jail – my hands holding the body of Lord.

A Miracle For Donnie Part II

First of a series by Donnie Lama

By Donnie Lama


They thought I was a Priest

It was then that the police brought out the photo albums and went through them hurriedly. They saw the picture that they would use against me. it was a picture taken on Dec. 29, 1984, when I first officiated a Eucharistic Service after being anointed as Lay Minister of the underground Catholic Church for the Filipino Group. The picture showed me while I was leading the group in prayer. The community, which I helped organize, regularly met for fellowship very early in the morning when the Arabs were still fast asleep. We started with six persons then the community grew to a little less than a hundred in just two to three months, which necessitated us to meet in smaller groups during the week. I was consulted on important plans and decisions in the spiritual care of Filipino Christians. In times of crisis, I would also mobilize my community in responding to those in need.