On behalf of his country's Catholic bishops, Canadian Archbishop Brendan M. O'Brien of Kingston has asked his government to intervene on behalf of Musa Sayed, a Christian convert in Afghanistan who may soon be executed for the “crime” of renouncing Islam.
On Feb. 9, the archbishop – who is also the human rights chairman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – wrote to Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, about Sayed's plight. He called attention to the Afghan Christian's “urgent case,” citing reports that he is to be executed within days on charges of apostasy.
Sayed converted to Christianity sometime between 2002 and 2003. An amputee and physical therapist, he has worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross for 15 years and specializes in fitting children with prosthetic limbs.
If executed, he would leave behind a wife and six young children, who have reportedly fled Afghanistan already due to fears for their safety.
Archbishop O'Brien urged his government “to express its condemnation of this religious persecution, and to intervene with the Government of Afghanistan for mercy and clemency for Mr. Sayed.”
From his prison cell in Kabul. Sayed himself has written an open letter – addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama and other international leaders – detailing the beatings and acts of sexual abuse he has suffered.
“The authority and prisoners in jail did many bad behaviors with me, about my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote. “For example, they did sexual things with me, beat me by wood, by hands, by legs, put some things on my head, mocked me.”
“Please pray and immediately help with me and rescue me from this jail,” the letter concluded. “Otherwise they will kill me.”
Jamal Khan, the chief of staff at Afghanistan's Ministry of Justice, has maintained that Sayed's Christian conversion is clearly a capital crime under the country's Islamic legal code.
“The sentence for a convert is death and there is no exception,” Khan has stated, maintaining that defectors from Islam “must be sentenced to death to serve as a lesson for others.”
Some Christian groups are taking a different lesson from Sayed's sentence, however, as they begin to wonder what nine years of war in Afghanistan have accomplished.
“A coalition of nations has spent many billions to help Afghanistan come out from under a religious dictatorship and into some semblance of modernity,” said Jeff King, an activist who heads the Washington-based International Christian Concern.
“This case, if taken on its own, would point to a grand waste of time, money, and blood,” King observed.