Christian aid worker released, another still held

By February 28, 2011

Afghanistan (MNN/ANS) — An Afghan Christian who was arrested in May and threatened with execution for his conversion to Christianity was released from prison last week after aggressive international diplomacy engaged Afghanistan's government, Assist News reports.

International Christian Concern (ICC) says that in a letter dated February 13, Said Musa described a visit by representatives of the U.S. and Italian Embassies offering him asylum.

According to the letter, after the foreign representatives left the room, Musa was visited by three Afghan officials who told him that he would be released within 24 hours if he wrote a statement declaring that he regretted his conversion to Christianity, ICC reported.

"I laughed and replied, 'I can't deny my Savior's name,'" Musa wrote, "because my life is just service to Jesus Christ, and my death is going to heaven [where] Jesus Christ is. I am 100 percent ready to die. They pushed me much and much. I refused their demands." Musa was then transferred back to his prison cell.

ICC sources in Afghanistan remained hopeful that the release would occur soon. The call came on February 21 from an official from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirming that Said Musa was released and was safely out of the country.

"I'm so thankful to the Lord that he is free. I know it was a concerted effort on the part of so many people," said an ICC representative in Kabul.

"The Lord has allowed us to take part in this momentous event, and I praise Him that it has ended with the freedom of Said Musa. Through Said's letters, he spoke publicly to the world a powerful testimony of his faith and perseverance."

In a media update, ICC says that Shoaib Assadullah, an Afghan Christian who was arrested for giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to authorities, remains behind bars.

Assadullah currently faces the same charges for apostasy that Musa was rescued from. In a letter dated February 17 and smuggled out of Qasre Shahi prison in Mazar-e-Sharif, Assadullah expressed fears that his execution is imminent.

"The court's decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the criminal code which says: 'If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to Islamic Sharia law,'" Assadullah wrote.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "We cannot be more thrilled about Said Musa's release. It has been encouraging to see the international community–including churches, reporters and government officials in Europe and North America–work together for the common goal of freeing Said. Many sleepless nights, prayers, and tears have paid off.

"However, the battle has not yet been won. Shoaib Assadullah is still imprisoned in northern Afghanistan and fears the death penalty. We still have a long road ahead before we witness religious freedom in Afghanistan. We must remain vigilant and keep the public and diplomatic pressure alive by continuing to shout with one voice for Shoaib Assadullah until together, we can also celebrate his release."

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