Thursday, September 13, 2012
Christianity Grows in Afghanistan, Despite Islamists’ Threat
By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
(ANS) -- The negative and suspicious view of Afghanis towards Christian activities has caused Christian groups and individuals, including Christians with an Islamic background, to be targeted in this war-torn country.
According to a story by the Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News, Christian evangelism has turned into a sensitive and complicated issue in the last 10 years. Muslims target Christians every day. They use the Islamic Sharia Law to charge Christians with blasphemy.
The rate of growth of Christianity in Afghanistan has caused Afghani Muslim clerics to consider it a threat. Also according to reports by news services, Afghani Muslim clerics warned the country's government against the spread of Christianity.
Mohabat News said the Islamic council of Afghanistan, compprised of Islamic seminary students and clerics from all around the country, called on Hamid Karzai to limit the number of aid-workers and Christian missionaries coming to Afghanistan, because they can cause Afghans to convert to Christianity.
Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the interior minister, appeared in the Afghanistan Parliament in May 2011. He said, “There are evidences of Christian evangelism in the country.”
Mohabat News said he added, “The activities in this field might be ‘broad.’”
According to Mohabat News, this anti-Christian wave was sparked after a private Kabul-based TV channel reported a number of Afghans had converted to Christianity and aired their pictures praying and being baptized.
The TV channel also claimed that some foreign non-government organizations are involved in promoting Christianity in the country. This provoked parliamentary members' anger.
Mohabat News said some of the members of parliament even asked to prosecute perpetrators of Christian evangelism in Afghanistan and convict them under Sharia Law.
According to Sharia Law and Afghanistan's judicial system, which Mohabat News said is mostly based on Islamic laws, if someone leaves Islam and converts to another religion he or she could be executed.
In addition, hundreds of Afghani university students, professors and Islamic experts protested against Christian evangelism in Kapisa province, in eastern Afghanistan. Mohabat News said protestors called on the Afghani government “to deal with those who promote Christianity in Afghanistan and deceive Muslims.”
In addition, Hamid Karzai denounced some foreign institutions' evangelical operations among Afghani youth, and called for actions against these institutions.
Mohabat News said some Afghani domestic media mentioned a lack of seriousness from the government towards those who have converted to Christianity as a reason for youth to embrace Christianity.
Those media wrote, “If sacred Islamic rulings were implemented against people like Abdul-Rahman and Amin Mousavi, today nobody would consider converting to Christianity.”
Mohabat News said the execution of apostates is one of the controversial issues that have made their way into Afghani media.
Mohabat News said the threat that exists against Afghani Christians should not be trivialized. Changing one's religion is considered a crime that is punishable by death in Afghanistan. As a result, Afghani Christians are constantly being targeted by Muslim extremists and the government.
According to Mohabat News, a video was released in 2011 showing Islamists beheading an Afghani Christian and quoting the Mohammad as saying, “Whoever changes their religion must be killed.”
Islamists strike on Christians in Afghanistan
Mohabat News said the Government of Afghanistan arrested 24 Christian missionaries who were serving in humanitarian aid institutions in 2001. All arrested missionaries were released in November of the same year at the request of the international community.
Mohabat News said another controversial Christian persecution case was against Abdul-Rahman, an Afghani citizen. Abdul-Rahman's Christian faith was revealed in Feb. 2006. He was arrested by police and later sentenced to death for apostasy. Then Afghani officials announced that he was temporarily released due to a “mental disorder.” After being temporarily released, Abdul-Rahman left Afghanistan and took refuge in Italy.
In another case, Mohabat News said, three South-Korean citizens were kidnaped by Taliban militants in July 2008. Two of them were killed before negotiations between Taliban and South Korean officials, and the other was released after a ransom was paid.
In Sept. 2008, Islamic experts of the district of Jaghori arrested a religion teacher, Amin Mousavi, who was allegedly promoting Christianity. The Islamic experts sentenced the teacher to death, but later he was released and fled the country.
On May 31 2010, Mohabat News reported, a 45-year-old Afghan Christian, Saeid Mousa who was physically disabled and wearing an artificial leg, was arrested because of his Christian faith.
Shoaib Assadullah was imprisoned on Oct. 21 2010 after he handed a Bible to someone who later reported him to Afghani authorities.
Mohabat News said most probably, institutions and organizations that are in direct contact with Afghani Christians have a more complete list of persecutions against Christians in this strictly Muslim nation. However, those referred to are examples.
In addition, Mohabat News reported, Afghani Christians are not safe from the hands of Muslim extremists even outside their country. An Afghani Christian convert was burnt by hot water and acid last September in a center for refugees in Norway. The offenders told the man, “IfIf you don't return to Islam we will kill you.”
According to a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the last church building in Afghanistan was destroyed in March 2010, and currently not even one Christian school exists in the country.
Today, the society in which people are raised with extreme Islamic thoughts from birth, is facing a deep change in its people's religious attitudes. Mohabat News said knowledgeable officials of the country acknowledge that Christianity has found a special place not only among youth but also among other members of Afghani society. House churches are also growing rapidly.
Christianity has spread not only among ordinary Afghans but also among Afghani elites and well-known figures.
Mohabat News said Afghan Telex News Service published a report on the conversion of some members of the Afghani Parliament to Christianity. It read in part, “Evangelism and Christian propaganda is spreading in the country at a high level, but this is the first time that those who call themselves representatives of the Afghani people not only have become ‘apostates,’ but have joined Christian ministries to evangelize.”
According to human rights advocacy groups, Mohabat News reported, at least tens of thousands of Christian converts are living inside Afghanistan, despite persecution.
|Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."
Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at http://www.homelessinthecity.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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