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US Quran-burning backlash spreads to Afg...

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US Quran-burning backlash spreads to Afghanistan

Country/Region: South and East Asia, United States, Afghanistan

The backlash against the burning of a Quran by a pastor in Florida has spread to Afghanistan, increasing the danger for the country's vulnerable Christian community.

Violent demonstrations in Afghanistan against the act, which took place at the church of controversial pastor Terry Jones on 20 March, started last Friday (1 April); seven United Nations staff and at least five demonstrators were killed when an angry mob stormed the UN compound in the northern town of Mazar-e Sharif.

Kandahar_4X3.jpg

The unrest spread over the weekend with protests in Kandahar, where 11 people were killed and dozens more injured in the riots. A peaceful demonstration, which involved hundreds of people blocking a main road for three hours, was staged in Jalalabad on Sunday. The crowd were shouting for US troops to leave Afghanistan and burnt an effigy of President Barack Obama.

The protests in Afghanistan followed demonstrations across Pakistan, where Christians have been targeted in what appear to be retaliatory attacks.

Although the backlash in Afghanistan has been primarily directed at the US, Christians in the country are likely to be viewed as allies of the West, making them extremely vulnerable at a time of increased hostility towards the US.

Christians under pressure

And Afghan Christians, especially converts from Islam, are already under intense pressure. Although the country's constitution guarantees religious freedom, including the right to change one's faith, the reality is quite the opposite.

TV footage of Christian baptisms triggered a frenzied response last May, prompting a crackdown on converts; 26 were arrested while many others were forced to flee the country. Said Musa (45), one of those detained, was locked up for nine months under the threat of execution for apostasy until an intense international campaign won his release in February 2011.

Despite the international pressure Afghanistan came under to free Said, other converts remain in prison, and Christians continue to be denied religious freedom. Shoaib Assadullah (23) was arrested in October 2010 for giving a New Testament in the national Dari language to another Afghan. He has been languishing in prison since, facing the death penalty for apostasy.

While Afghan President Hamid Karzai was quick to call on the US Congress to condemn the Quran burning in Florida and prevent such an act from happening again, he has been silent about the systematic persecution of Christians in his own country.

Mr Obama strongly condemned the burning but also challenged the scale of the response. He said:

The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity.

When Pastor Jones first threatened to burn copies of the Quran, to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks last year, Barnabas Fund condemned the action as "an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture".

We are running a campaign to save Afghan converts to Christianity and also for the wider cause of religious freedom in the country.

Sign the Save Afghan converts to Christianity petition sign online

Download a printable PDF version of the petition here. Download Petition (please return by 31 May 2011)

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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Daily prayer

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  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

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