Christian persecution watchdogs express solidarity for the released Afghan Christian, who has just arrived in Italy after he was offered asylum.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a news conference in Rome that Rahman has shown "great courage" and that the Afghan’s whereabouts has been kept secret.
The 40-year-old Abdur Rahman, who faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity, was freed Tuesday amidst international outcry from government and religious leaders. He was jailed this month after it was discovered he had converted to Christianity while working as an aid worker. An Afghan judge later ruled Rahman unfit for trial citing a possible case of "mental instability."
Under the Islamic Sharia law, Rahman would have received the death sentence for apostasy. Shortly after his departure from Afghanistan, the country’s parliament officials condemned Rahman’s release, and vowed to stop him from leaving the country.
About 1,000 people rallied in a northern Afghanistan city on Monday, demanding Rahman’s execution, according to a report by Reuters. Some conservative clerics threatened the government with rebellion should Rahman be released.
The Christian community has expressed concern, stating that Rahman’s case raises awareness to the suffering of believers in the Middle East.
"I think that this case is important in the sense that it has brought international attention to Christian persecution in Islamic countries," says Todd Nettleton, director of news services for Voice of Martyrs.
A week ago, two Afghan Christians were arrested on charges of apostasy, reported Compass Direct. The organization said that local sources declined to reveal the location of the jailed converts for security concerns.
According to various persecution-monitor groups reports of harassment, physical beating and murder of Afghan Christians continue, although Rahman’s case is the first documented legal prosecution of a believer for apostasy.
"This is astonishing… [that] this newly liberated, supposedly democratic country, is carrying out a pattern of religious persecution…similar to the Taliban’s rule," says Bob Fu, president of China Aid Association. Fu urged Christians to pray in solidarity for believers in Muslim nations, stating, "If one part of Christianity suffers, then all Christians suffer as one body in Christ."
"The brothers and sisters that suffered persecution in China have similar experiences. I hope that they can start praying for the Christians in Afghanistan as well," Fu added.
Rahman converted to Christianity while working as an aid worker for Afghan refugees in Pakistan for 15 years. He had lived in Germany before returning to Afghanistan, where he became involved in a custody battle for his two daughters. During the trial it was discovered that Rahman was a Christian and that he carried a Bible. He was subsequently detained by the order of the judge.
No reported public demonstration for Rahman’s execution has been carried out since Monday’s protest in northern Afghanistan.