- (Photo: AP Photo / Muhammed Muheisen)
President Obama is hurting persecuted Christians worldwide by failing to speak up for them, says a well-known convert who lives under police protection in Europe.
While the U.S. president has consistently sought dialogue with the Muslim world, he has not put in the same effort to protect oppressed Christians, says Sabatina James, who has lived for the past nine years in fear of being murdered for leaving Islam.
“You (President Obama) are saying these things about the prophet [Muhammad] but why don’t you protect [Christians]? You’re a Christian and have such influence,” James recalls herself asking while watching President Obama’s speech in Cairo last year.
“A man of such an influence should definitely speak differently. He should have said that he feels for the people who are living in prison and who may somehow be listening to the speech,” James says. “Even if he said something like that it would be good. But he did not even mention it.”
James, whose book My Fight for Faith and Freedom is a bestseller in Germany, has moved 16 times since 2001 due to death threats on her life. She is currently living in an unknown location in Europe and spoke to The Christian Post this week using a temporary cell phone that she had to discard afterwards.
Her book chronicles her journey living in Islamic Pakistan as the granddaughter of a mullah to moving to Austria as a young girl and being exposed to western culture. In the harrowing tale, James shares about the physical abuse she endured, her forced engagement to her cousin, her enrollment in a strict Quran school in Pakistan, and how she eventually became a Christian and women’s rights activist.
“I have no permanent home, hardly any friends, and little contact with the outside world,” James writes in the book’s prologue. “I am an Austrian citizen – and I am very afraid I will not see my next birthday.”
In the book, the outspoken convert shares about the oppressed Christians and women she met while visiting Pakistan in April 2008 after she founded her relief organization, Sabatina EV.
James shares the story of a woman named Ruchsana, whose 22-year-old son Immanuel was falsely accused of murder. Immanuel had joined the Pakistani army and one of his unit’s Muslim soldiers had murdered another Muslim but put the blame on him because “‘they knew that he, as a Christian in Pakistan, would have no rights,’” James recalls being told by a man who knew Immanuel.
Immanuel was sent to death row but no one informed his family. After six months without any word from him, his father died of a heart attack. His mother then sold all her possessions in order to hire a lawyer to find her son.
When Immanuel’s mother finally met him, he was emaciated and she promised that she would get him out of prison. But within just days after their meeting he was hanged. Immanuel’s fiancé, after his death, suffered mental anguish and has altogether stopped speaking.
“‘Today my other son cleans and my youngest of just nine years old sells vegetables,’” James recalls a heartbroken Ruchsana telling her.
James says the United States and Western nations need to realize that the strategy of dialogue with Muslim countries is not working. Dialogue can only be accomplished when two parties agree to listen to one another. But the West believes it’s in a dialogue when it is actually a monologue, she contends.
“They are building the mosques and allowing the Muslims to do whatever they want in Europe but what about the Christians? The Muslim countries are not doing anything to help the Christians there,” she says. “So this is not dialogue and this is not helpful.”
The Pakistani convert urges President Obama to say that the United States wants to have a dialogue with Islamic countries but point out that if Muslims are allowed to build mosques in America then Christians should be allowed to build churches and live in safety in Muslim countries.
“But he didn’t say a word about it [during the Cairo speech],” James points out. “And that is what I hate about politics. They don’t care about the real things that are going on with human rights.”
During his speech in Cairo last June, President Obama was careful to show utmost respect to Islam, including praising its tradition of tolerance. He did, however, briefly mention religious freedom.
“People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul,” Obama said. “The richness of religious diversity must be upheld – whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt."
Open Doors USA, a ministry to persecuted Christians, had pointed out after the Cairo speech that President Obama failed to elaborate on the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt or the plight of minority Christians in other Muslim countries.
This week, a bipartisan government commission also criticized President Obama and his administration’s handling of religious freedom in the world. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in its annual report stated that Obama has rarely mentioned religious freedom since his Cairo and Ankara speech last year. The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the report stated, have also exchanged the phrase religious freedom for the narrower phrase “freedom of worship.”
“I am one of them. I am one of the converts. I am myself living under police protection,” James says. “I have a lot of contacts with converts, people who have left Islam and converted to Christianity. They all would say, ‘You know, nobody speaks for us.’”
James’ book My Fight for Faith and Freedom was scheduled to be released in the United States in June but the plan was cancelled after the publishing company went bankrupt. She hopes that another U.S. publisher will soon agree to release her books in the United States.