Romans 8:35-38 (New Living Translation)
“35Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or are hungry or cold or in danger or threatened with death? 36(Even the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” 37No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away.”
Update – The war of words over the life of Abdul Rahman is getting white hot. For the last couple of days government officials have been calling on the government of Afghanistan to find a civilized way out of the crisis they have created in trying Rahman for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Yesterday, Amnesty International issued this pointed statement:
“As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the government of Afghanistan is bound to uphold Article 18, which provides that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” and that “this right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice”. In its General Comment on this Article, the Human Rights Committee, the panel of independent UN experts which examine states’ implementation to the ICCPR, has stated* that “the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief”. It further stated that “the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs […], to recant their religion or belief or to convert” is prohibited.”
George Bush, in a speech made in West Virginia yesterday, made the position of the American people clear:
“We expect them to honor the universal principle of freedom,” Bush said during a town hall meeting in Wheeling, W. Va. “It is deeply troubling that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another.”
“I'm troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about. I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship,” he continued.”
Today, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, speaking on behalf of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, once again made the American position clear:
“State Department spokesman Sean McCormack reported that Rice underlined to Karzai the “fact that the United States stands forthrightly for principles of freedom of worship, freedom of expression, and that these are bedrock principles of democracy around the world, these are principles that are enshrined in the Afghan constitution and they’re principles that are enshrined in the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” he said.”
“We're looking for a favorable resolution at the earliest possible time,” McCormack added.”
In my mind, and the minds of the overwhelming majority of Americans, a “favorable resolution” would be for Abdul Rahman to be released so that he can practice his religious beliefs freely, without fear of having his head lopped off.
The response from religious leaders in Afghanistan has been swift, and just as pointed as the calls for Rahman to be released:
“Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man who converted from Islam to Christianity must be executed and if the government caves into Western pressure and frees him they will incite people to “pull him into pieces.”
In addition to the threat of being pulled into pieces, the clerics are also calling for Rahman to either be hanged or decapitated:
“He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian,” said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.”
“The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed.”
“Raoulf, who is a member of the country's main Islamic organization, the Afghan Ulama Council, agreed, saying, “The government are playing games. The people will not be fooled.”
“Cut off his head!” he exclaimed, sitting in a courtyard outside Herati Mosque. "We will call on the people to pull him into pieces so there's nothing left.”
“He said the only way for Rahman to survive would be for him to go into exile outside Afghanistan.”
“But Said Mirhossain Nasri, the top cleric at Hossainia Mosque, one of the largest Shiite places of worship in Kabul, said Rahman must not be allowed to leave the country.
“If he is allowed to live in the West then others will claim to be Christian so they can too,” he said. “We must set an example. ... He must be hanged.”
As I noted in my earlier post today, this is what some Islamic clerics consider toleration. Since when has having one’s head cut off, or being hung, or torn into pieces been considered proof of moderation, compassion, or tolerance? Orwell must be saying, “See, I told you so,” from his grave.
While it may not be clear to some reading this post, it is to me. Threatening to take a man’s life because of his beliefs and refusal to deny those beliefs, is uncivilized, cruel and barbaric. It’s every bit as offensive as the grisly trade terrorists ply on an almost daily basis in the Muslim world. It is a theological form of terrorism, plain and simple. The civilized world must do all in its power to prevent this injustice from happening.
My prayers, and the prayers of Christians and others of good faith around the world, go out to Abdul Rahman. In this test of faiths, may God’s grace rest upon him. May it also rest upon those who are the victims of this cruel, oppressive, expression of “faith.” And, may the scales of justice tip in the right and true direction for those whose only perceived crime is exercising the freedom of conscience God graciously gives each of us.
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