Top Christian Rights Groups Rally for Afghan Convert

As calls for the death penalty continued to resound from Afghanistan, where the case of a convert to Christianity has caught the world’s attention, calls for tolerance and respect of religious freedom continued to be made by the Christian and international community.

Although the case of Abdul Rahman was dropped on Sunday after a more than weeklong trial, Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill the 41-year-old believer if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.

"Please keep Rahman in prayer,” stated Washington, D.C.–based International Christian Concern after receiving Sunday’s news. “He will be in grave danger as long as he remains in the country. The fundamentalists will seek to kill him regardless of what the courts say. He is an apostate and must be killed according to Islamic law.”

According to the Associated Press, Rahman had accepted Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Afghan convert was arrested after his ex-wife and teenage daughters reported him to officials three weeks ago. He was charged with rejecting Islam.

In the days leading to Sunday’s court decision to drop the case, Christian groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) demanded for the release of Rahman.

“Executing or imprisoning a person solely because of his religious beliefs violates the Afghan constitution as well as international law and would set a dangerous precedent for future religious prosecution worldwide,” said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow last Friday. “The thought of a convert to Christianity being put to death for his religious beliefs is intolerable. We call on the Afghan government to drop the criminal charges against Abdul Rahman and to set him free without delay.”

Unlike the United States, where there is a separation between church and state, “in an Islamic country, there is no separation,” noted Christian watchdog group The Voice of the Martyrs.

“Islam controls not just religion, but also politics, legal issues and all of life,” said VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton in a released statement last week. “And Islamic law simply does not allow a person to leave Islam and follow another faith.”

VOM contacts estimate that there are between 1,000 and 3,000 born-again Christians in Afghanistan, and they say other Christians are watching Rahman’s case closely. Compass Direct has reported that two more Christians have been arrested since Rahman’s story made its way into the media spotlight, and a third was beaten badly.

“The Afghan government recognizes that Afghans can be Hindus, and can be Sikhs, and in one case even recognizes they can be Jewish,” Nettleton said last Wednesday. “But they do not recognize Afghan Christians.

“Our brothers and sisters there have no legal standing, and that has got to change. American soldiers didn’t go to Afghanistan and lay down their lives so that Christians could be persecuted; they fought and died so that Afghans could truly have freedom.”

“Our hope is that this case and the attention it generates will lead Christians around the world to pray for revival in Afghanistan,” concluded Nettleton.

According to the latest reports, the United Nations said Monday that Rahman has appealed for asylum in another country and that the world body was working with the Afghan government to meet the request.

An Afghan official closely involved with the case had previously told AP that Rahman would be released, but authorities were debating how and when it would be done.