Thursday, March 23, 2006
Freedom of Religion?  

By now you have probably heard of the case of the Afghan man, Abdul Rahman, who is facing a possible death penalty because he is a convert to Christianity. If you have not heard, the basic facts of the case, as I understand them, are that Rahman became a Christian some years ago when he lived outside Afghanistan. In recent years, he returned to the country and became involved in a custody dispute regarding his children. His family turned him over to the authorities for the crime of having converted to Christianity from Islam. Under the current legal system in Afghanistan, one of the punishments for apostasy is capital punishment. Although the courts can pass a death sentence, it is the president of the country who must sign the order.

As international pressure mounts, albeit apparently very weak public pressure from the United States government, it appears that the Afghan government is scrambling to find a way out of this mess. The current tact seems to be to conclude that Rahman is not mentally stable. Thus, he is not fit to be subject to a trial regarding apostasy.

Of course, this is all very troubling to people of Western nations who value freedom, including the freedom of worship and the free exercise of religion. It is also very troubling because to date the President of the United States has not been questioned about this with any amount of energy. I am not certain why this is not more of an issue for the press corps to pursue.

In this country that we invaded and liberated in order to make the world more free from terrorism, we have a clear sign that laws and behaviors have a long way to go before Afghanistan could be considered any type of democracy. After the right to life, the right to freedom of conscience and the free exercise of religion is the most basic of human rights. It is grounded, as John Paul the Great articulated, in the fundamental dignity that each person has as a human being.
The same declaration of the Second Vatican Council was then taken up again in various documents of Pope Paul VI, in the 1974 Synod of Bishops' message, and more recently in the message to the United Nations Organization during the papal visit on October 2, 1979, which repeats it essentially: "In accordance with their dignity, all human beings, because they are persons, that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and, therefore, bearing a personal responsibility, are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and to direct their whole lives in accordance with its demands" (Dignitatis humanae, no. 2). "The practice of religion by its very nature consists primarily of those voluntary and free internal acts by which a human being directly sets his course towards God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind. But man's social nature itself requires that he give external expression to his internal acts of religion, that he communicate with others in religious matters and that he profess his religion in community" ((Dignitatis humanae, no. 3). Source
Hopefully, Afghanistan will reverse its current position and not execute a man simply for his religious convictions. Similarly, I hope the United States is the leader in pushing for the release of Abdul Rahman. This would be a true demonstration of concern for spreading freedom throughout the world.

Posted by David at 7:45 AM  |  Comments (2)  | 


Well, the Bush govt. has sacrificed democracy in Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc. .... all in the name of spreading democracy in that region... so this guy's fate is merely a temporary news item on Bush' radar.

I would question this Afghan guy's sanity... here's a guy living in Germany. He converts out of Islam and .... goes to Afghanistan? Doh.

Anyway, an insanity plea can allow Karzai and Co. to let him live while not enraging the illiterate Afghan poppy producing whackos.

It is funny to see Christians (who used to burn people at the stake) mock Islam for the Afghans' actions at different blogs and web sites....

Afghanistan's illiterate Muslims today are no worse than Europe's Christians..... just a few hundred years late.



By Blogger Imran Anwar, at March 23, 2006 9:57 AM  

It is doubtful that many contemporary Christians are supporters of burning at the stake. Not to mention that there is quite a bit of fanciful history propogated about the extent and practice of burning at the stake (e.g., the unlikely number of witches who were killed according to the Da Vinci Code).

That being said, it is always easy to call someone a hypocrite based on something that his ancestor did (or was alleged to have done). The problem with that is that the person is not guilty for the sins of his ancestor, and if that is really a criteria, no one would be able to say anything about anyone.

Mocking has no place, but calling into question those who would seek to put someone to death for conversion is surely not a problem.

By Anonymous David W., at March 24, 2006 8:13 AM  

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