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Barnabas Fund launches campaign for the abolition of the Islamic apostasy law

Islam is a one-way street. You can convert to Islam but you are not allowed to convert from Islam. All schools of Islamic law, shari‘a, agree on this rule and specify the death sentence for an adult male Muslim who chooses to leave his Islamic faith. Most also impose the death penalty on women apostates. The rule was established many centuries ago by Islamic scholars, but even today most Islamic religious leaders and many ordinary Muslim people agree with it.

The death penalty is rarely put into practice, but the existence of this “apostasy law” is so well known amongst Muslims that it generates strong hostility towards apostates, whether from family or community, from religious or secular leaders, from police or judiciary. So it is normal for converts from Islam to face persecution and violence. They may be arrested, either for apostasy or on a pretext. They may be attacked, beaten or even murdered by their own relatives. And those who commit the violence will probably not be punished for it.

A further range of penalties for apostasy is laid down in shari‘a, including losing one’s spouse and children and forfeiting one’s property and inheritance. These are imposed in many Muslim contexts today.

It is not surprising that many converts from Islam to Christianity keep their new faith secret, but why should they have to do so? Islam actively encourages non-Muslims to convert to Islam, but it is the only world faith with a death sentence for those who leave it.

The Islamic apostasy law also stands in stark contrast to Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published sixty years ago this month, which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief...”

Things can change

There are brave Muslim voices calling for the apostasy law to be abolished. Some scholars point out that the Qu’ran has no clear statement about the need to punish apostasy in this life. Others doubt that the traditions about Muhammad’s response to apostates are genuine. Still others say that apostates who were killed in the early days of Islam were condemned not for changing their faith, but for rebelling against the Islamic state.

In support of these voices, Barnabas Fund is launching a new campaign that seeks to bring an end to the Islamic apostasy law. Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director, says, “Although only Muslim leaders can make this happen, we as Christians can help the process, by speaking up for freedom of religion and belief and by encouraging others to do the same. We ask you to join us in our efforts and prayers to bring about change for those who choose to leave their Islamic faith, so that they are no longer subject to any penalty but are free to follow their new convictions without fear.”

What to do now

If you would like to sign our petition, please go to sign online petition. This Petition is Now Closed! - 01/04/2010

The sign-up sheet can also be downloaded and printed out here (for Australia click here | for USA click here| for Germany click here | for France click here), so that you can both encourage your friends to sign and take the petition to your church.

Above all, please pray: that the apostasy law will lose its hold on Muslim people worldwide; that it will be rejected as a wrong interpretation of the Islamic sources; and that Muslims may be free to convert without any danger of reprisals.

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Daily prayer

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Lift up to the Lord persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka, where at least 65 anti-Christian incidents took place during 2013, including repeat attacks on several believers and their property in October 2013. However, a Sri Lankan government minister from a Buddhist nationalist party denied the accounts, saying that they might be “made up”. The minister claimed that Sri Lankans are “one family … trying to live together after a long civil war”. Pray that the Sri Lankan government will recognise the danger that our brothers and sisters face from militant Buddhists and that the authorities will provide effective protection for vulnerable Christians. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Indians have started going to the polls this week in a general election that is taking place in phases until 12 May. The ruling, secular Congress party is expected to be defeated by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This would be an ominous outcome for the country’s Christian minority. The BJP has given support to extremist groups that attack Christians; states under the party’s rule have generally experienced a rise in anti-Christian violence. It has introduced anti-conversion laws on a state level, and has pledged to introduce national legislation to curb "missionary" activity and end proselytising if elected nationally. Pray for wisdom for Indians as they vote and that the outcome will result in a just government that upholds the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Apr 2014 00:00

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