Sunday, August 8, 2010

Failing Liberty for Afghanistan by Failing Freedom of Religion

I wrote recently of the deadly flaw Congress has mandated in the US strategy in Afghanistan - that for the first time in our history not only denies the Constitutional right to Freedom of Religion to Christians, but actively supports the sole expression of another religion. By sincerely trying to be respectful of another culture, and in a weird misguided belief that this somehow reflects our confidence in that freedom of religion, we've actually done the exact opposite and denied it. So instead of assisting another government in setting up genuine liberty for its citizens whereby they can be free of oppression and make their own decisions, instead we watch the recreation of yet another absolute religious monopoly in a country that historically had an ancient Hindu culture as well as a Christian one.

The result of this policy is seen yet again today:

Christian medical aid team slaughtered in Afghanistan

"They hiked for more than 10 hours over rugged mountains - unarmed and without security - to bring medical care to isolated Afghan villagers until their humanitarian mission took a tragic turn.

"Ten members of the Christian medical team - six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton - were gunned down in a gruesome slaughter that the Taliban said they carried out, alleging the volunteers were spying and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The gunmen spared an Afghan driver, who recited verses from the Islamic holy book Quran as he begged for his life. ....

"Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the AP that they killed the foreigners because they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity." In a Pashto language statement acquired by the AP, the Taliban also said the team was carrying Dari language bibles and "spying gadgets." ....

International Assistance Mission slayings: part of Taliban war strategy

Patrik Jonsson writes:

"The execution-style killings of 10 people working for a Christian medical team in a remote region of northern Afghanistan fit into Taliban insurgents' stated shift in tactics: Target Western civilians, especially Christians, as "foreign invaders."

"Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in conversations with Western reporters. "One of our patrols confronted a group of foreigners," Mr. Mujahid was quoted as saying. "They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all."

In June of this year, Afghanistan's Islamic government suspended the Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid, both Christian aid groups (often referred to as Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs))from working in the country:

"...We want those who have converted from Islam to be punished. We also want the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to ban all the churches that have been established and any organisation spreading Christianity here," said one protester, Zabiullah Khan. ...

"Government officials said a follow-up investigation would aim to establish whether other groups were trying to convert Muslims. ...

"Proselytising* is illegal in Afghanistan, as is the case in many Muslim countries. "

"Proselytising" is a generic word that means preaching any belief. It is used in the media exclusively to refer to Christians accused of telling people about Jesus. The Moslem groups engaged in building the controversial mosque in New York City are proselytising.

So technically, using this word misrepresents the actual law in Muslim-majority countries or Muslim-controlled regions of other countries that allow Sharia to be enforced, which is that Islam is the only religion allowed to function in any way, despite claims or even constitutional provisions otherwise [info at link may be outdated]. Conversion is only allowed in one direction: to Islam. Christianity cannot be preached, public worship is not allowed, bibles may not be brought in to the country.

Jesus Christ's final instruction to the Apostles came after His resurrection, when He told his followers to go everywhere and tell the Good News to every person. Christians know this as "The Great Commission" and it is one of the foundational tenets of our faith:

Mark 16:14-16 (New International Version)

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

16" Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

To deny a Christian the freedom to tell others about Christ is to deny the practice of our faith. This is persecution.

What is happening in Afghanistan is not the same as, for instance, requiring all employees to conduct their business during work time without overt display or talk about their specific religion. Those employees can still invite coworkers to come to church with them, they can still pray before meals, they can still take their religion's turn to use the Quiet Room for afternoon prayers; with reasonable adjustment to company dress codes, they can still wear their cross or required clothing.

No, what is happening in Afghanistan is that an entire population is being denied their right to decide for themselves what their religion is going to be. The entire population is being denied the fundamental human right of choosing their faith. When Christianity is banned, this means all literature is censored and contorted - scientific and educational as well as casual.

So along with no Freedom of Religion, there's also no Freedom of the Press and no Freedom of Speech. What other basic liberties are also denied?

However one may feel about any religion - good, bad or indifferent - the freedom to choose one's own beliefs - or none - and to choose one's method of worship - or none - is a fundamental human right that is primary in the US Bill of Rights for good reason: it is a linchpin on which all other freedoms hinge.

The leaders of our government throughout this entire war, Republican as well as Democrat, have - perhaps almost accidentally - abandoned a principle so essential to American life than without it America will cease to exist. And in doing so, they are denying these basic charitable human rights to the men, women and children of Afghanistan.


Updated 08/09/10 to add: Various parties are denying that the murdered team of medical workers were teaching Christianity. The denials are being reported in the press as though it matters - as though it would be a blot on their memory that they were martyred for their faith, as though the victims would "share" blame for their own deaths if they had preached. What is the deal here? Why is the outrage directed at a squabbling point of who is telling the truth, and not at the absolute facts: The team were believing, bible-carrying Christians. The Taliban admits murdering them because of that. Why is this not sufficient to outrage every person who wants the freedom to choose their own religion or none for themselves? Are these denials as primary as the press is causing them to appear, or is there another "journolist" somewhere still coordinating the message?


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