Magazine article Insight on the News

Practicing What They Preach? Unlike Their Counterparts in America, Christians in Muslim Countries Enjoy No Religious Freedoms. Many Continue to Be Persecuted. (Religion)

Magazine article Insight on the News

Practicing What They Preach? Unlike Their Counterparts in America, Christians in Muslim Countries Enjoy No Religious Freedoms. Many Continue to Be Persecuted. (Religion)

Article excerpt

The plight of Christians in Muslim-ruled countries is a dismal one, according to several human-rights organizations. In many of those nations, Christians cannot practice their religion openly nor attempt to convert others to it. Churches are not allowed in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, and in other Islamic countries there are severe restrictions on where they can be built and to whom their faithful can preach the Gospel.

The U.S. State Department's annual religious-freedom report rates Islamic-ruled Afghanistan among the worst countries -- along with Burma, China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam -- in terms of religious freedom. Runners-up included Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and the Sudan, where conversion from Islam is a capital offense.

Nigeria, Indonesia and the Sudan lead the world in actual death tolls of Christians, says Paul Marshall, senior fellow of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House in the Washington. The number of Christians and animists who have perished in the Sudan is estimated at 2 million.

In terms of draconian government restrictions Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, where four Baptists were tortured for having religious literature in their car, are the most severe. Pakistan has "very bad laws," Marshall says, but "compared to these others, it's relatively open."

Iran, which allowed the slaying of several prominent Christian pastors in the mid-1990s, has severe laws against Christians trying to evangelize Muslims. But outright persecution there has lessened a bit, says Marshall, probably due to the influence of its reform-minded president, Mohammed Khatami.

Robert Finley, founder of Christian Aid, a missionary organization based in Charlottesville, Va., identifies Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan as the most repressive Muslim countries. Iraq is the least hostile country in the Middle East toward Christians, he says, because its brand of Islam is more secularized than that of Saudi Arabia. "But Kuwait is very intolerant of Christians," says Finley. "They just don't allow them."

The Kuwaiti constitution promises freedom of religion, but does not address conversion. In 1996, the marriage of a Kuwaiti convert from Islam to Christianity was forcibly dissolved and his children taken from him before he underwent a much-publicized trial for apostasy.

Shafeeq Ghabra of the Kuwait Information Office says his country has plenty of churches. "There are Catholics and non-Catholics," he says. "There are several important churches there. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Kuwait." Most of these are expatriates, he says, estimating that 5 percent of the Kuwaiti people themselves are Christians. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.