Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tolerance Watch: Afghanistan Set to Execute Man for Being a Christian

One step forward, ten steps back:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In the days of the Taliban, those promoting Christianity in Afghanistan could be arrested and those converting from Islam could be tortured and publicly executed.

That was supposed to change after U.S.-led forces ousted the oppressive, fundamentalist regime, but the case of 41-year-old Abdul Rahman has many Western nations wondering if Afghanistan is regressing.

Rahman, a father of two, was arrested and is on trial for rejecting Islam. The Afghan constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, says that apostates can receive the death penalty. [Emphasis mine]

"They want to sentence me to death, and I accept it," Rahman told reporters last week, "but I am not a deserter and not an infidel."

He had been arrested after telling local police, whom he approached on an unrelated matter, that he had converted to Christianity. Reports say he was carrying a Bible at the time.

The Afghani government's compromise plan? Have him declared "mentally unfit", so that the case can be tossed. This would spare Afghanistan from being even more reviled than the Talbian was when they shelled the Buddhas of Bamiyan. It would also, effectively, declare Christianity a mental illness in Afghanistan.

I used to grind a handful of axes against certain denominations of Christians, particularly evangelicals and the religious right. And, in so far as someone attempts to use their religion to suppress the religious sentiments of others, I'll oppose that. But I have a deep and abiding respect for most Christians, both in this country and abroad. I know some Christians who use their faith as a veil for hate, sure - but that happens in every religion, and Buddhism is no exception. Most Christians I know are peaceful, moral people, suffused with the love of Christ.

Currently, outside of the United States, Christianity is one of the world's most oppressed faiths, particularly in Islamic countries. This is more sad evidence of that. That Abdul Rahman would be put to death in this day and age merely for his beliefs is shameful.

The Bamiyan Buddhas, while holy relics, were mere statues. This is a sentient being who has committed no crime. The Buddha does not live in a statue; he lives in this man. Please email the Aghanistan Embassy and speak your mind in a peaceful manner.

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