Open Doors USA
Last month an American soldier coming home from Afghanistan was seated next to me on a flight. He saw my “One With Them” rubber barbed-wire wristband that I was wearing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who share our faith, but not our freedom. I explained that the wristband is being worn by thousands in support of persecuted Christians around the world.
The soldier nodded as I spoke. He’d seen for himself during his tours of duty in Afghanistan that the country allowed no room for him to practice any faith but Islam. After the U.S. invasion, Afghan authorities added to the nation’s flag the Islamic creed: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”
The U.S. State Department reports that in March 2010 Afghanistan’s lone church structure was razed by the property owner. Today no public churches remain in Afghanistan. In the decade since the U.S. invasion more than 1,700 American military personnel have died in this South Asian country. U.S. taxpayers have funded some $440 billion to establish the new Afghanistan. Yet, “the [Afghan] courts consider all citizens to be Muslims by default,” the State Department report said. “Conversion from Islam is considered apostasy and is punishable by death under some interpretations of Islamic law in the country.” Afghanistan’s media law prohibits publicizing and promoting religions other than Islam, the report said.
This marked decline in religious freedom in Afghanistan, which the State Department reported, concurs with the Open Doors World Watch List (WWL), an annual ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe. In 2004, Afghanistan was 13th on the WWL. This year the country ranked third based on persecution levels in 2010.
Imagine how that American soldier felt putting his life on the line in Afghanistan to free its people when religious freedom, the most basic of freedoms, was not extended to him. In recent weeks the new “Arab Spring” governments of Libya and Tunisia have each announced that their constitutions will be compliant with Shariah, or Islamic law, although Libya later softened that announcement. I’ve heard Western political analysts downplay these leaders’ statements that Shariah would be the basis of laws as just a way to consolidate Islamic power bases. I don’t think the legal systems of Saudi Arabia and Iran represent the heart and soul of what Americans want to see happen in these popular North African democratic revolutions.
Meanwhile, ongoing attacks against Christians in Egypt have led to their steady exodus from the nation where St. Mark planted a church around the year 43 A.D. Many fear Syria’s government will likewise topple. Lebanese Christians remain fearful of the future. Sudanese leaders have declared their intent to fashion Sudan’s laws in compliance with Islam as well.