Christians Under Pressure in Afghanistan
Friday, June 04, 2010
Christians in Afghanistan are urging prayer following a recent crack down on believers in the country.
Afghan authorities have suspended the work of two Christian foreign aid groups after photos of worshippers praying and getting baptized appeared on the Internet.
The photos weren't connected to the groups, however, it sparked a debate in parliament, with some leaders questioning the work of Christian, non-governmental organizations in the country.
The government said it is investigating the U.S.-based Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid on the suspicion of proselytizing.
Both groups deny seeking Christian converts and said proselytizing is against their policy.
"They are investigating whether the groups were proselytizing or not," said Mohammad Hashim Mayar, the deputy director of the Afghan government office that oversees non-government organizations. "They will report back and also assess what is the impact of closing these NGOs. The investigation will include whether other groups or individuals are involved."
Mayar also said officials did not have any evidence of proselytizing beyond the initial report.
Proselytizing is illegal in Afghanistan, as it is in many Muslim countries of war.
Norwegian Church Aid Secretary-General Atle Sommerfeldt said in a statement that his organization has a firm policy of not attempting "to convert people to another religion" in all countries where it operates.
Maurice Bloem, deputy director of programs for Church World Service, said in a statement his organization does not proselytize, in accordance with the code of conduct for NGOs.
Bloem said Church World Service has worked inside Afghanistan since 1979, always in partnership with local Afghan organizations, and has been serving half a million people of different faiths there. He said its mission is to assist the Afghan people.
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