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in the lion's den
A Rare Repreive amid Rising Persecution of Christians

A Sudanese appeals court has just overturned a death sentence against Meriam Ibrahim, a woman condemned to death for apostasy (and who gave birth to her second child while imprisoned). Even though she was raised a Christian, she had a Muslim father, and a lower court declared her an apostate from Islam. Meriam’s reprieve is a bit of good news in these dark times, but for every Meriam who is spared there are many, many people around the world who continue to live under unofficial death sentences.

This weekend the New York Times profiled an Afghan convert to Christianity identified only as Josef. When he was a teenager, his siblings emigrated to Germany, but Josef stayed behind to care for his parents. In 2009 he witnessed a shooting of an eight-year-old boy and decided he finally wanted to get away from the violence and horror wracking his country. He was smuggled into the West, stopping in Greece, Italy, and eventually Germany, where he became a Christian and was granted asylum—temporarily:

The reprieve was short-lived; the German authorities rearrested him and deported him to Italy because he had not sought asylum in the European Union country where he was first processed, as required. Without family or friends in Italy, he sought aid from churches and charities that offered him food but no shelter.

Homeless, broke, depressed and in deteriorating health, Josef gave up and went to live with his wife and her family in northern Pakistan.

Once back in Pakistan, his wife’s family found files indicating his conversion and beat him nearly to death. He escaped back into Afghanistan, but is now being chased by his uncles and his brother-in-law, who wants him put to death for becoming an apostate from Islam.

For millions of people, Josef’s story is all too familiar, with its smugglers, desperate asylum bids, detention centers, bureaucratic runarounds, grinding poverty, and the constant threat of violence. International organizations can, and should, congratulate themselves on helping to save Meriam, but as Josef’s story reminds us, there’s a lot of work still to do.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    In many Islamic places, getting out of Islam is harder than getting out of a street gang, because unlike with street gangs which usually represent a minority, MOST of your surrounding people in Islamic places are part of the mob. Show me a liberal who thinks Islam is a respectable philosophy only ruined by western interference and I’ll show you a person who is woefully clueless.

    • gabrielsyme

      I’d point out that there are respectable and decent Islamic communities. The Ismaili come immediately to mind.

      • FriendlyGoat

        There most certainly are A LOT of respectable and decent Muslims as human beings, but that’s because they are human beings, not because they are Muslims.

        We should treat the humans well and regard Islam as one of the many ideas of history that we now know are false. Plenty of people mess around with Greek and Roman mythology as a study of historic influence. Almost nobody seriously still believes in those gods, and that is exactly where we ought to be regarding the sayings of Mohammad as well. But over a billion people have not yet reached this view of Islam, and, as we see, that’s a big, big problem.

  • gabrielsyme

    Those who conspire, attempt and commit murder are routinely met with impunity in most Muslim societies when the targets are the right sort. It is a savage and vicious practice that robs entire societies of fundamental freedoms.

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