US govt urges Afghanistan to release Christian converts

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Hamid Karzai with Barack Obama
Divergent views? Hamid Karzai with Barack Obama

Hamid Karzai with Barack Obama
Divergent views? Hamid Karzai with Barack Obama

SOME international Christian organizations have joined hands with the US government to urge Afghanistan to release two men who face apostasy charges for converting to Christianity.

The two men could face death penalty if they are convicted of apostasy.

The US government has asked the Afghan government to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document endorsed by Afghanistan that upholds freedom of religion.

Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman of the US Embassy in Kabul, said: “We continue to call for their release, and frequently raise this issue with the highest levels of the government of Afghanistan, expressing our strong concern.”

However, there are no signs of the Afghan authorities relenting.

From the archives: Islam watch

Jamal Khan, chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice, insisted that the punishment for a convert under Shariah (Islamic law) was death and there could be no exception.

Apostasy is a capital crime in Afghanistan where the constitution is based on the Islamic law.

One of the detained men, 46-year-old Said Musa, converted nine years ago.

Musa has worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross as a physical therapist in Kabul for over 15 years. His wife and six children fled the country after he was arrested in May.

The second convert is Shoaib Assadullah Musawi (25). He was arrested in November in Balkh province, in northern Afghanistan. He was arrested after he gave a copy of the New Testament to an Afghan friend who witnessed against him.

In an open letter written in his jail cell in Kabul, Musa said he has been beaten and sexually abused in prison.

“The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad acts with me about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Musa wrote in the letter. It was addressed to his supporters as well as US President Barack Obama.

Fellow prisoner Musawi also said he had been beaten and sexually abused by prison authorities and other inmates.

However, officials at the Ministry of Interior denied the two inmates were sexually abused or beaten.

Interestingly, neither of the two accused has legal representation. Fearing backlash from their own community, Afghan lawyers have refused to represent them.

Musa was arrested immediately after a TV anchor in Afghanistan triggered antiforeigner sentiment when he accused two groups, the Norwegian organization Church Aid and Church World Service of the US of proselytizing.

Although the two groups denied the charges, Afghan president Hamid Karzai expelled both organizations.

Nasto Nadiri, the 27-year-old TV host had accused foreigners of trying to misguide Afghans religiously in the show on Noorin TV.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a group of Christian activists from around the world secretly gathers in Kabul most mornings to organize letter-writing and fund-raising campaigns on behalf of the two jailed converts.

Christian organizations fighting for the coverts release are of the view that not much has changed in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted.

Jeff King, president of Washington-based International Christian Concern, which is leading efforts by U.S. Christian groups to release the two men, said: A coalition of nations has spent many billions to help Afghanistan come out from under a religious dictatorship and into some semblance of modernity.

“This case if taken on its own would point to a grand waste of time, money, and blood,” he added.

Even if the converts are released, they would have to seek asylum outside the country because of the security concerns surrounding them.

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