Afghanistan: Taliban urges Pope to stop Christian conversion
Kabul, 7 May (AKI) - The Taliban on Thursday threatened “harsh reprisals” if Pope Benedict XVI does not immediately intervene to stop Christians proselytising in Afghanistan. In a message posted on their official website, the Taliban made the threat against the pope and Christians for spreading their faith.
The message followed video footage aired on Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera earlier this week apparently showing Christian soldiers proselytising outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, and handing out copies of the bible in Pashtun.
“We are sending out a message to the most important personality in the Christian world - Pope Benedict XVI,” read the message.
"If he does not immediately stop these stupid and irresponsible acts of proselytism by the crusaders, our reprisals and that of the Afghan people will be very harsh.
“Afghans are offended by this,” the message said.
The message claimed that dozens of Christian missionaries are proselytising in Afghanistan under the guise of humanitarian non-governmental organisations.
It also said these groups are collaborating directly with American and other foreign troops in Afghanistan.
“They are taking advantage of the war and of needy Afghans, who are driven towards the religious deviance of these groups,” it said.
The message cited as examples the “apostate” Abdel Rahman who converted to Christianity and gained asylum in Italy and a group of 23 South Korean missionaries kidnapped by the Taliban in July 2007.
It called on Afghans, especially religious leaders and intellectuals, to “repel the attacks on their faith which prolong the crusader war started by (former US president George W.) Bush”.
Religious leaders and mujahadeen (holy warriors) must keep tabs on the movements of “enemies of Islam” and crusader occupiers" and prevent them from spreading “the propaganda of other religions in the land of Islam,” the message said.
"All the supporters of (Afghan president) Hamid Karzai’s regime, especially the courts the justice and Islamic affairs ministries must apologise and condemn these crusader acts.
“They must no longer allow them to take up arms against us, thus redeeming themselves before Allah,” the message concluded.
Violence in Afghanistan in the past year has reached its highest level since the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, despite increasing numbers of American and other foreign troops.
Trying to convert Muslims to any other faith is a crime in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has seen bloody demonstrations in recent years after cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad were published in Denmark and after allegations emerged that US troops in Guantanamo Bay mistreated the Koran.