Another Afghan Christian convert, who was also in prison at the same time as more well-known convert Said Musa, was recently released and has made it to a safe country, reported a Christian persecution watchdog group on Wednesday.
Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was threatened with execution for charges of apostasy after giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to authorities. Assadullah was in prison for five months before he was released on bail on March 30. But it was not until April 14 that the Afghan convert to Christianity from Islam received a passport and was able to leave Afghanistan to an undisclosed safe country.
“Shoaib’s location in Mazar became known and this was judged to be a high risk,” said a friend of Assadullah (whose name was not disclosed because of security concerns) located in Mazar-i-Sharif to Washington, D.C.-based International Christian Concern. “So he has left the country for an indefinite stay abroad. He traveled to Kabul and then [out of the country] with the help of friends.”
In Afghanistan, apostasy is a crime punishable by death under sharia law. But religious freedom advocate Godfrey Yogarajah of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission has pointed out that punishing a citizen for converting from Islam to another religion is illegal under Afghanistan’s Constitution, which does not recognize apostasy as a crime.
Assadullah was arrested on Oct. 21 in Mazar-i-Sharif and had stayed in the Qasre Shahi Prison in Mazar-i-Sharif, which is the same northern city where recently angry Muslims attacked the United Nations building and killed several U.N. workers over the burning of the Quran in Florida.
While in prison, Assadullah wrote, “I am under emotional pressure from being in prison. Add to that the threat of being executed, constant insults and accusations, cursing and being forced by other prisoners and by prison guards to do work for them all because of prejudice against my different beliefs and my different ethnicity.”
The young Afghan convert’s release comes about a month after fellow convert Said Musa was released after international outcry, including from evangelical leaders such as Rick Warren and John Piper.
Musa’s case set off unprecedented advocacy by evangelical leaders, who engaged in a Twitter campaign to demand Musa’s release, perhaps because he was a 45-year-old amputee and father of six who refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ despite facing death for his religious belief.
“My body is theirs to do what they want with. Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell,” Musa had wrote in a letter sneaked out of prison and made public to the Western world.
In both the cases of Musa and Assadullah, months of aggressive international diplomacy is credited for their freedom.
“Shoaib Assadullah’s release ends a frightening ordeal and ICC could not be happier for him and his family. However, while the Afghan government relented on Assadullah’s behalf, there does not appear to be any change in policy, and the crackdown on Christians will continue,” commented Aidan Clay, ICC regional manager for the Middle East.
“We still have a long battle ahead of us before the Afghan government recognizes the religious freedoms of Christians.”