Relaymedia

Afghan Clerics Threaten Violence for Christian's Release

Afghan clerics and their followers threatened to attack the government should Christian convert, Abdur Rahman, not be returned to his native-country for trial.
( [email protected] ) Apr 02, 2006 10:01 PM EDT

Afghan clerics and their followers threatened to attack the government should Christian convert, Abdur Rahman, not be returned to his native-country for trial.

1,000 Muslims at a mosque in Kunduz, northeast Afghanistan, demanded the 40-year-old man be brought back from Italy for execution, according to Islamic Sharia law that places the death sentence for apostates.

The cleric and organizer of the rally, Sheikh Mohammad Baqir said that the "act of the government is illegal," regarding Rahman's release. He urged other provinces to demand the Christian's return, and to "resort to violence" if "the government doesn't listen."

The arrest and subsequent trial of the Afghan Christian attracted outcry from political and religious leader from Western nations. Christian persecution monitor groups including the Voice of Martyrs, China Aid Association, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Compass Direct, amongst other, added to the demand for the Afghan’s release.

During the meeting, police placed themselves around the mosque, not allowing participants to march outside. Police officials later told the press that they were afraid violence would result from the march.

The whereabouts of Rahman remains unknown as Italian authorities refused to disclose his locations for fear of his safety. The Afghan Christian received asylum from Italy upon his release last week, after a court official released him on suspicions of "mental illness."

Rahman has been a Christian for 16 years while working as an aid worker in Pakistan. He had lived in Germany prior to his return to Afghanistan to regain custody of his daughters, who were being raised by their mother's parents. Rahman was arrested when it was discovered that he was a Christian and that he possessed a Bible.

A week after Rahman's departure from his native country, various conservative officials within the lower house of the Afghan parliament maintain that his release was illegal, stating that his sentence should be subject to Islamic law.

According to western-based mission groups, Rahman's case highlights the plight of Christians living in the Middle East, some of whom have kept their faith for generations.

It is not known when Christianity made its appearance in South Asia. The 1935 discovery of the "Taxila Cross," has led some Christian scholars to speculate that Christianity reached the region with the arrival of St. Thomas in the 2nd Century A.D., contradicting claims that the religious is a British colonial influence.