by Allen Dvorak
Perpetua and Felicitas were two young women who were
martyred in A.D. 203 at Carthage, victims of the Roman persecution of the church. When they were condemned to die in
the arena, Perpetua was a woman of 22 years with a young
child and Felicitas was pregnant. Tertullian is believed by
some to be the author of the story of their martyrdom (Passion of Perpetua). They died because they wouldn't renounce
Christ and sacrifice to the emperor. The emperor Severus
had forbidden conversion to Christianity in A.D. 201.
It is the year 2006, but some things don't change. Abdul Rahman was arrested in February in Afghanistan because he violated Islamic Sharia law. Mr. Rahman converted to Christianity several years ago, but was recently accused of being a Christian by his family during a custody battle over his two daughters. When arrested and questioned by authorities, Rahman was carrying a Bible and confessed he was a Christian. The case of Abdul Rahman has received international attention and a number of national government leaders have pressured Afghan president Hamid Karzai to arrange for Rahman's release. The penalty for Rahman's crime, apostasy from Islam, is death.
The prosecutor in this case, Abdul Wasi, is not shy when it comes to talking to the media about Rahman. This government representative of the "peaceful" religion of Islam is quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one. We are Muslims, and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty." The Chicago Tribune also quoted Mr. Wasi:"He is known as a microbe in society, and he should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed." The judge in the case stated, "If he doesn't regret his conversion, the punishment will be enforced on him. And the punishment is death."
It looked for a while as though Mr. Rahman's fate was sealed, but then the Afghan court dropped apostasy charges against Rahman "because of a lack of evidence and suspicions he may be mentally ill." I suspect the primary reason the case was closed was the international pressure brought upon the government of Afghanistan. The government floated the story that Rahman might be mentally ill for several days before he was finally released, probably to prepare Muslims for the "escape" from this difficult situation that they intended to use. Even when the Italians offered Rahman asylum, Afghanistan's parliament demanded he not be allowed to flee the country. "Peaceful" Muslim clerics criticized the government for releasing Rahman, claiming it was a "betrayal of Islam" and threatening to incite violent protests.
Of course, it is not illegal to convert to Christ in the United States nor will anyone be put into prison for the simple fact of being a Christian. However, would there be enough evidence to convict if we were arrested for being Christians? Mr. Rahman was quite clear about his claim to be a Christian. The Afghan court, however, decided Mr. Rahman's claim to be a Christian and even the fact he carried a Bible was insufficient evidence to prove he was indeed a Christian. The evidence against some "Christians" in this country would be little more than verbal claims and possession (but not use) of a Bible.
I don't know the nature of Mr. Rahman's "conversion," I don't know if he is a Christian in the sense that the New Testament speaks of Christians, rather than the denominational concept of a Christian (anybody who vaguely believes in Jesus). Although our government may not ever make conversion to Christ illegal, I do know that all of us will some day be examined by a higher court for evidence of a relationship with Jesus Christ. What will the Judge find in our lives in the way of concrete evidence that Jesus lives in us? I'm afraid simply carrying a Bible and claiming Jesus as Lord will not be enough (Matthew 7:21-23).