Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Monday 07 February 2011
Barnabas launches campaign for Afghan converts to Christianity
Country/Region: Afghanistan, South and East Asia
West must intervene to secure rights to full freedom of religion
|Said Musa who is Christians currently incarcerated for apostasy
(Source: Release international)
Barnabas Aid is today launching a petition to save an Afghan Christian who is facing execution for converting from Islam.
Yesterday's Sunday Times featured on its front page the case of Said Musa (45), a father of six, whose plight Barnabas Aid has previously reported.
Until now, we have been working behind the scenes with others to secure Said's release. But high-level talks involving US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and representatives of the French and German governments have failed to move Afghan President Hamid Karzai to act on his behalf.
Said has been languishing in prison, where he has been tortured and abused, since his arrest - as part of a crackdown against converts - last May. Said is yet to stand trial and no defence lawyer will represent him. They say the case is hopeless because the prisoner refuses to renounce Christianity, or they back out after receiving death threats themselves.
Said is not the only Afghan convert to Christianity whose life is in immediate danger. Shoaib Assadullah (25) is also being held in prison and has been threatened with the death penalty for apostasy unless he returns to Islam. He was arrested last October after giving a New Testament to another Afghan.
Apostasy is a crime punished by death under Islamic law, which is upheld by the Afghan constitution. Wherever Islamic law is in force, converts from Islam are in real peril. At the end of last month Abdolreza Gharabat was hanged for apostasy in Iran after he claimed to be God.
What are we fighting for?
Hundreds of British and US troops have lost their lives fighting a violent insurgency by the Taliban, whose hard-line Islamic regime was ousted in 2001. But despite these ongoing and costly efforts to support the new government and constitution, Afghan citizens - especially converts to Christianity - are being denied the fundamental right to choose their own faith. The constitution upholds international standards of human rights in theory, but in practice the government's policy towards converts appears no different from that of the Taliban.
As long as the West continues to prop up the Karzai regime and refuses to demand tougher action by the Afghan government to uphold its international agreements, it is surely complicit in the persecution of converts to Christianity such as Said and Shoaib.
This failure reflects a wider indifference among Western governments to the plight of Christians, and especially converts, in the Muslim world. Last week the European Union failed to condemn recent attacks on Christians. Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign minister, was accused of appeasing Muslim sensibilities by refusing to name a specific religious group as the victim of the violence.
Key Western leaders, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and David Cameron, have subtly changed their vocabulary in recent months. They are now calling only for "freedom of speech" and "freedom of worship", not for "freedom of religion", which covers the right to choose and to change one's faith. Are they no longer concerned to defend this right?
Barnabas Aid is caring for Afghan Christians who have been forced to flee the country. But now we are also calling on Western governments to act in their defence.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Aid, said:
Said Musa's plight can be seen as a test case for how Western governments are going to respond to the treatment of converts to Christianity in the Muslim world. I urge you to join us in putting pressure on them to use their influence to achieve for everyone the universal right to full freedom of religion.
Please sign our petition and forward it to others.
Write to your political representatives and and ask them to raise this as a matter of urgency with the relevant government department (for UK readers please ask your MP to raise it with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). We have prepared a template that you may wish to use as a basis for your letter.
- Thank God for the Sunday Times' article and other international media coverage of Said's case; pray that it will be brought to the attention of those with the power to intervene.
- For Said and Shoaib, and other converts to Christianity who are being held in prison because of their faith, that the Lord will encourage and strengthen them.
- That Western governments, especially in the US and UK, will use their influence in Afghanistan and elsewhere to secure full rights to freedom of religion, including the right to change one's faith.