LONDON – A new human rights group is mobilizing people around the world to stand up for the freedom of religious converts to freely live out their faith.
Set My People Free to Worship Me is planning to stage simultaneous marches on April 3 in London, Frankfurt, Melbourne, Cairo, South Africa, Stockholm and Sydney.
The group's founder, Kamal Fahmi, said he was organizing the protests to seek freedom, justice and equality for religious converts. The movement specifically calls for freedom for converts to worship, marry and raise their children according to their new faith.
"We want to advocate that all people, especially Muslims, have the freedom to change faith, to live out and practice their new beliefs," he said.
The movement, Fahmi stressed, is non-violent and inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement who said, "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Set My People Free to Worship Me has launched a petition demanding "freedom to worship in the Muslim world" and condemning apostasy laws.
Compared to 20 years ago, there are now open communities of Muslim converts to Christianity in almost every dominantly Muslim country, according to the petition. Conservative estimates suggest that there are at least 70,000 Muslim-background Christians in Algeria alone. With that, apostasy is fast becoming a large scale global issue.
"This is due to the fact that Islam is a one way street," the petition reads. "One is allowed to convert to Islam but one is not allowed to convert from Islam. However, things are beginning to change as Muslims desire the freedom of religion without fear, harassment and violence."
Two out of three people in the world live in countries with high levels of restrictions on religion, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report. Among all regions, the Middle East-North Africa region has the highest government and social restrictions on religion. In 75 countries (38 percent of all countries), the government limits the freedom of religious groups or individuals to share their faith in an effort to convince people to follow their religion.
"In our rapidly changing world, religious values and human rights are being challenged. Every year thousands die because of persecution, injustice and oppression by governments and religious institutions," the petition states. "If we don't watch it, very soon justice and equality for all men and women will be usurped. In the Muslim world the Muslim people don't have the freedom to choose their faith. We wish to speak out against the Muslim apostasy law worldwide."
The petition is addressed to global leaders, governments, and parliaments, including the U.N. secretary-general, president of the European Commission, and the Islamic Center of Washington D.C.
Fahmi, who has spent over 20 years working in the Middle East and Africa in Christian based organizations, hopes the protest marches will become an annual event.
"We believe that it is time to support our suffering Christian brothers and sisters from Muslim background and raise awareness of the injustices that they face," he said.