An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death on a charge of converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws, a judge said Sunday.
The trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam should take here four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.
The defendant, 41-year-old Abdul Rahman, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told The Associated Press in an interview. Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam and his trial started Thursday.
During the one-day hearing, the defendant confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Mawlavezada said.
“We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law,” the judge said. “It is an attack on Islam.” [ DANIEL COONEY, GUARDIAN UNLIMITED Sunday March 19th]
One would expect that the United States, a champion of human rights which invaded Afghanistan to throw out the Taliban, would push for Abdul Rahman’s acquittal. But the US is treading lightly so as not to upset her ally, the present regime in Afghanistan.
“The State Department, however, did not urge the U.S. ally in the war against terrorism to terminate the trial. Officials said the Bush administration did not want to interfere with Afghanistan’s sovereignty.” [BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer, March 21st]
The Kingdoms of this world do not function on the basis of absolute ethical principles. Some countries do better than others but at the end of the day it is still real politik. Perhaps that is all we can hope for this side of heaven.
But it is still incredible that in modern times, a man can be sentenced to death for choosing a religion. It makes nonsense of any notion of human rights. Christians however should not be surprised by this state of events. Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that those who choose to follow Him must expect to be persecuted (John 15:18-21). The apostle Paul stated it equally clearly (2 Timothy 3:12).
Those of us who have lived in societies that have escaped overt persecution for any length of time are in danger of forgetting this basic teaching of the Christian faith. Just check the syllabus of your basic set of follow up materials. Show me one that has suffering and dying for Christ as part of the syllabus. Yet there it is so clearly taught in the bible.
I understand that in some Christian circles it is deemed rude to be pushy about the certainties of what we believe. I understand why such sentiments have arisen. But I wonder if there were such uncertainties in the coliseums of Rome in the time of the early church. You had to be sure, at least sure enough, to be willing to die for Christ.
I suspect that the reality of persecution is a challenge to both a cold rationalistic evangelicalism and elements of the emergent movement that shy away from being too absolute about absolute truths.
I may not die for a set or presuppositions. But I hope I will have the faith to die for Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God. However I need to be certain enough about who Christ is, to do so.
But back to Mr. Rahman. How are we to respond to his plight and the plight of others like him? What can we do for our brother?
*I will pray for his life, believing that God hears and will answer in His perfect will.
*I will take whatever peaceful means open to me to appeal for his release. I will probably email in my concerns to the Afghan embassy here in Malaysia. (The email address of the Afghanistan embassy in Malaysia is: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
*If needed and if it is within my power, I must help take care of Mr Rahman’s dependents.
*I must be sure that my own faith is securely anchored so that if I find myself in a situation similar to Mr. Rahman’s I will not be found wanting. I assume that if I am willing to die for Christ I should be living for Him.
Those of who who know me will know that I enjoy my warm showers and my CD collection. I am as middle class as they come and therefore very poor martyr material. But I find it hard to ignore the bible I study. And I find it increasingly hard to ignore the Rahmans of this world.
One day, Jesus will return and everything is going to be ok. Till then let us help one another wait in faithfulness.
Your cowardly brother, Soo-Inn Tan