Christian Persecution Set to Increase in Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghnistan - The Afghan convert, who inspite of violating Afghan law and protest staged by Afghans against him, is free and safe and has been granted asylum in Italy. Following this issue, Religious rights investigators warned that thousands of people in Afghanistan could face execution for converting from Islam to Christianity.

|TOP|US-based Christian Freedom International (CFI), which investigates cases of alleged persecution of Christians, said Abdul Rahman, who faced the death penalty for "abandoning Islam," is just one "of at least 10,000" converts in Afghanistan.

It was not immediately clear on which information the figure of 10,000 was based, but CFI is known to have close contacts with persecuted individuals and churches in key areas of the world. The group stressed that many of these "new Christians live in secret" for fear they may be killed at a time when tensions are rising.

Encouraged by Muslims clerics, last week Afghans held protests in several cities of Afghanistan, shouting anti-Western slogans and demanding the killing of Rahman. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi confirmed on Wednesday, March 29, that the 41-year old Rahman arrived Italy and was "being looked after by the interior ministry."

BosNewsLife quoted CFI's President Jim Jacobson as saying that, "CFI is extremely pleased that Rahman's life was spared, unfortunately, so many other apostasy cases, just like Rahman's go unnoticed. His case was literally the tip of the iceberg."

|AD|"Offering asylum would have sent a strong message to the government and people of Afghanistan that America will not tolerate the persecution of minority Christians, especially in a country we liberated from the Taliban," Jacobson stressed.

He claimed that America is "becoming an extremely difficult place for persecuted Christians to be granted asylum. There are thousands of Christians from Burma awaiting asylum protection, but so far they are being turned away."

Jacobson added that Christian rights activists had "a long way to go to change the attitude in Washington from being hostile toward legitimate persecuted Christian asylum seekers."

American officials have denied they are indifferent about persecution of Christians, and United States President George W. Bush was among key Western leaders demanding the release of Rahman.

Abdul Rahman, 41 years, was imprisoned two weeks ago, denounced by his family as a convert. The man had left Islam 16 years ago, when he worked for a Christian NGO in Peshawar (Pakistan). He later migrated to Germany, where he lived until 2002. When the Taleban regime was overthrown, he returned to seek custody of his children. He risked the death penalty under the Shar’ia Islamic law, the foundation of the Afghan Constitution.

[Editor's Note: Vishal Mathews reported from New Delhi, India for this article]

Vishal Mathews
Christian Today Correspondent