Churches and Islamic Institutions Emphasize Importance of Religious Freedom
Berlin, March 23 (idea) – In a rare unanimous outcry political, Christian and Islamic leaders in Germany have condemned the trial of a Christian convert in Afghanistan. Abdul Rahman faces a possible death sentence for apostasy. He became a Christian 16 years ago while working with a Christian relief agency in Pakistan and lived in Germany for nine years.
After his conversion his wife divorced him. Because he could not obtain immigration status in the European Union he was deported to Afghanistan in 2002. When he tried to regain custody for his 13- and 14-year old daughters, he was arrested for apostasy.
This is regarded as a crime punishable by death under the Islamic Sharia law, which is part of the Afghan constitution. Rahman refused to recant his Christian faith in court.
The threat of a death sentence for a conversion has caused grave concern and outrage in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel got in touch by telephone with the Afghan President Hamid Karsai. Merkel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reminded Afghan leaders of their obligation to protect religious freedom.
Representatives of the political opposition in Berlin have indicated that Germany could withdraw financial and military support from Afghanistan, should Rahman be sentenced to death. This view was echoed by a leading expert on human rights for the Christian Democratic Union in the German Parliament, Hermann Groehe.
A “terrorist rule of law against Afghan Christians” would not be tolerated and would undermine any German support, Groehe told the evangelical news agency “idea”. He is a member of the council of the Protestant Churches in Germany.
The Protestant leader Bishop Wolfgang Huber emphasized that there could be no human rights without religious freedom. And this included the right to change one’s religious affiliation. It was unacceptable that converts should be threatened with the death sentence.
The chairman of the religious liberty commission of the German Evangelical Alliance, Paul C. Murdoch, regretted the “medieval” path pursued by the democratic government of Afghanistan. He called attention to the fact that it is “almost common practice” in many Islamic countries to “lynch” apostates.
The director of a relief agency working in Afghanistan, who preferred to remain anonymous, told idea that the majority of the Afghan citizens worry that a death sentence could jeopardize the democratization process.
The leaders of the main Islamic organizations in Germany have also condemned the threat of a death sentence against Rahman. The Central Islam Institute expressed the view that according to the Quran there should be no coercion in matters of faith. There are approximately 3.5 million Muslims in Germany.