“DEATH TO AMERICA”
“KILL THE CHRISTIAN CONVERTS”
Welcome to American occupied Afghanistan and the latest results of the war on terror.
Thousands of students in northern Afghanistan today burned an effigy of the pope while protesting against attempts by Christian denominations to spread the gospel and to convert Muslims to Christianity.
At the same time, the Afghan government, under President Hamid Karzai, suspended operations of US-based World Church Service and Norwegian Church Aid after a local television station accused the groups of proselytism, which is a crime in the conservative Muslim country.
Students in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif shouted “Death to America” and set ablaze an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI, in the first public reaction to the allegations. “We are demonstrating to express our disgust towards the activities of Christians trying to covert Afghanis,” Abdul Karim, an Afghan student, told the press.
‘We want the government of Afghanistan to find those people, try them and punish them. We want both the converted and those who have converted them to be brought to justice and punished,’ Mr. Karim said.
Converting from Islam to another religion is punishable by death under Afghan law.
The Afghan constitution is based on traditional sharia law, which strictly bans religious conversion.
The government is investigating the two organizations after the little-known Noorin TV channel showed footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and undergoing baptism. The television station said the men were Afghans who converted to Christianity as a result of the proselytizing efforts of the two groups.
Both groups have denied the accusations.
The footage produced irate reactions from conservative circles, including Afghan lawmakers who called upon the country’s security chiefs for an explanation last week.
Former Afghan interior minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar, who resigned on Sunday over a Taleban rocket attack directed at a peace conference, told parliament that two of the men shown in the TV footage have been taken into custody and will face the death penalty.