Monday, September 05, 2011

Patrick Sookhdeo discusses plight of converts under Islam’s apostasy law on radio

Barnabas Fund’s International Director, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, took part in a controversial discussion about Islam’s apostasy law on Premier Christian Radio’sUnbelievable programme on Saturday. This law prescribes the death penalty for Muslim converts who choose to leave Islam for another religion.

Dr Sookhdeo and Muslim scholar Sheikh Dr Muhammed Al-Husseini from inter-faith organisation Scriptural Reasoning discussed what Islamic scriptures and sources say about apostasy and the theological basis in Islam for the treatment of converts. They also discussed how the Muslim community and the Church are responding to this pressing issue, including how the Church establishment in the UK sought to hinder British Muslim leaders who had wanted to speak out against the apostasy law.

Listen here: Link

New Article by Dr Patrick Sookhdeo

Persecuted Christians in the Muslim world

Blessed are the peacemakers

In 1991 I was the pastor of a church in east London at the outbreak of the first Gulf War, when the far right had threatened to attack British Muslims. Members of my congregation went unprompted to the local mosque and surrounded it, to protect it and the Muslims against any violent attacks.

Our Lord says that the peacemakers are blessed (Matthew 5:9). His disciples must live at peace among ourselves, and with non-Christians too as far as we can. We should also try to make peace between other people and seek to resolve conflicts.

So Christians today must seek to make peace among people of different religions, including Islam. This may involve joining in conversations with Muslims to build good relationships with them, or between them and others. And we must firmly confront fear and hatred of Muslim people.

But a response from the Muslim side is required too. There can be no real peace while many Christians in the Muslim world are persecuted for their faith.

Christ’s broken body

In most Muslim-majority countries Christians have a lower status than Muslims, and they are subject to discrimination and restriction. These may leave them locked into poverty, illiteracy and poor employment, without even the basic necessities of life. And as a despised and disadvantaged minority, they are vulnerable to more severe persecution.

Often this is initiated by the state. In Saudi Arabia the government forbids non-Muslims from practising their faith publicly. In Iran the regime has arrested and detained many converts from Islam. In Pakistan the “blasphemy law” demands a death sentence for “defiling the name of Muhammad”, and Christians are at particular risk from malicious and false accusations.

I am a convert from Islam. The Islamic law of apostasy prescribes the death sentence for me and any adult male Muslim who leaves his faith. Although the penalty is rarely imposed, the apostasy law generates such intense hostility towards converts that they often face persecution and violence. In Afghanistan, TV footage showing converts being baptised triggered a frenzied anti-Christian response last year and calls for them all to be killed.

Physical violence against Christians by Muslim militants is also common. Homes and churches may be destroyed by mobs, and whole Christian communities driven from their villages. Individuals are raped or kidnapped, beaten up or imprisoned, and many are murdered. The last two years have seen a sequence of horrific massacres by Muslims against Christians in Nigeria.

The recent revolutions in the Arab world, which many have hailed as an “Arab spring”, may turn out to be a Christian winter. Democracy may produce more strongly Islamic regimes and the fuller imposition of sharia law in Egypt, which will restrict Christian worship and witness and endanger converts further. In Syria, the fall of the regime could lead to an anti-Christian bloodbath.

Hope and aid for persecuted Christians

Barnabas Fund supports our Christian brothers and sisters in the Muslim world (and elsewhere) where they suffer discrimination, oppression and persecution because of their faith. We channel donations from Christians and churches into a wide range of projects run by local churches and Christian ministries.

Recent projects have included food for Iraqi Christian refugees in Syria, emergency relief for flood victims in Pakistan, Christian schooling, training for Indonesian church leaders, self-sufficiency projects in Egypt, care for converts in the Arab world and victims of violence in Nigeria, and many others.

Aasia Bibi is currently on death row in Pakistan

The service of Christ’s people in their need is part of our service to Him. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” says Jesus in Matthew 25. We would like Christians in Islamic countries to be able to live at peace with their Muslim neighbours without fear. But while they still suffer because of their love for the Lord, it is our calling and our privilege to stand with them.

The fifth-century theologian Augustine said that hope has two daughters: anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not have to remain that way. And Dr Martin Luther King said, “You know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled down by the iron feet of oppression... And we are determined to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, is currently on death row in Pakistan, falsely accused under the blasphemy law. If her appeal fails, she will face execution later this year. Two Pakistani politicians who took up her case have been assassinated, and many Muslims, even in the West, believe that she should be killed. It is Christians such as Aasia, persecuted for their faith and without other help, whom Barnabas Fund exists to support.

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