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Hopes and fears of Afghan Christians

By Tom Coghlan
Kabul
For the full article, go to BBC


For Afghanistan ‘s tiny Christian community, a community certainly in the hundreds and probably the thousands, the Abdul Rahman case has brought both fear and hope.

Mr Rahman is starting a new life in Italy after his trial in Afghanistan for converting from Islam collapsed. He faced the death penalty if he had been found guilty.

In a house in Kabul , one of the city’s Christian community described the ambivalent position they now find themselves in. The world now knows more of their existence. International pressure for increased religious tolerance, might, they hope, reduce their current vulnerability.

‘Civil rights’

“In Afghanistan we Christians have nothing to do with politics. We love and respect everyone. We love and respect even our enemies, however they punish us.”

He was accompanied by other Afghan Christians and spoke on their behalf. The man will not be photographed and asked that details that might help identify him be kept to a minimum.

The Christian community live with the threat of official harassment and attack by extremists. There have been gun and grenade attacks against churches in neighbouring Pakistan . “There is a very large threat against me,” he said. “We hope that God will care for us.”

Reasons for conversion

But despite the reported hardline rhetoric of Afghan clerics during the Rahman case the Christian claims that many Muslim friends regard his conversion as a private matter.

“Most of my friends know that I am a Christian,” he said. “I have many friends who are mullahs and maulvis.

“Some of them say they like me more these days. Before I was a liar, I was cheating people and many other things. I don’t do that now.”

But he said: “Some political groups use Islam as a vehicle for their advantage; to get power and to keep power. They are still using it.

“These groups are discredited in Afghan society. They have used Abdul Rahman to promote their power. Afghans feel at ease with Christians. It is only a few political groups who don’t.”

He declines to detail the reasons for his own conversion but stresses the shared heritage of Islam and Christianity.

“When I read the second section of the Koran, the one which deals with the birth of Jesus Christ to Mary, it affected me in a very profound way,” he said.

“My purpose is only to worship God. I find from this religion that I can.”

“I am very happy with my life and I see other Christians here very happy too,” claimed the Christian convert.

“In the future, what God wants will happen. But Christians are always with God and if we are killed we go to God.”