Perpetua and Felicitas were two young women who were martyred in A.D. 203 at Carthage, victims of the Roman persecution of the church. When they were condemned to die in the arena, Perpetua was a woman of 22 years with a young child, and Felicitas was pregnant. They died because they wouldn't renounce Christ and sacrifice to the emperor.
Some things don't change. In 2006 Abdul Rahman was arrested in Afghanistan, because he violated Islamic Sharia law. Mr. Rahman had converted to Christianity several years earlier and was now being accused of being a Christian by his family during a custody battle over his two daughters. When arrested and questioned by authorities, Rahman was carrying a Bible and confessed he was a Christian. The penalty for Rahman's crime, apostasy from Islam, is death. The case received international attention, and a number of national government leaders pressured Afghan president Hamid Karzai to arrange for Rahman's release.
The prosecutor in this case, Abdul Wasi, was not shy when talking to the media about Rahman. This government representative of the "peaceful" religion of Islam was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one. We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty." The judge in the case stated, "If he doesn't regret his conversion, the punishment will be enforced on him, and the punishment is death."
It looked for a while as though Mr. Rahman's fate was sealed, but then the Afghan court dropped apostasy charges against Rahman "because of a lack of evidence, and suspicions he may be mentally ill." I suspect the primary reason the case was closed was the international pressure brought upon the government of Afghanistan. The government floated the story that Rahman might be mentally ill for several days, before he was finally released, probably to prepare Muslims for the "escape" from this difficult situation. "Peaceful" Muslim clerics criticized the government for releasing Rahman, claiming it was a "betrayal of Islam" and threatening to incite violent protests.
Mr. Rahman was quite clear about his claim to be a Christian. The Afghan court, however, decided Mr. Rahman's claim to be a Christian, and even the fact he carried a Bible, was insufficient evidence to prove he was indeed a Christian. Of course, it is not illegal to convert to Christ in the United States, nor will anyone be put into prison for the simple fact of being a Christian. However, would there be enough evidence to convict, if we were arrested for being Christians? The evidence against some "Christians" in this country would be little more than verbal claims and possession (but not use) of a Bible. I don't know the nature of Mr. Rahman's "conversion," I don't know if he is a Christian in the sense that the New Testament speaks of Christians, rather than the denominational concept of a Christian (anybody who vaguely believes in Jesus).
Although our government may never make conversion to Christ illegal, I do know that all of us will someday be examined by a higher court for evidence
of a relationship with Jesus Christ. What will the Judge find in our lives in the way of concrete evidence that Jesus lives in us? I'm afraid simply carrying a Bible and claiming Jesus as Lord will not be enough (Matthew 7:21-23).
- Allen Dvorak