The Suffering Church
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) yesterday released a "Statement of Conscience" concerning worldwide religious persecution. The first version of this statement was released on January 23, 1996. At a time of little concern for religious persecution, this statement helped bring new attention to Christians harassed, arrested, or killed for their faith. In the summer of 1996, Christianity Today senior news writer Kim A. Lawton wrote on the crisis of the persecuted church.
Hussein Qambar Ali, who has been a Christian for less than two years, found his life on the line in Kuwait, a nation where the state religion of Islam opposes conversion by its citizens.
Hussein, who uses the Christian name Robert, could be executed after his conviction for apostasy in a Kuwaiti Islamic court May 29. The religious court recommended that Hussein, a Muslim by birth, should be killed because of his conversion to Christianity. According to local reports, the court also said his marriage should be dissolved and all his possessions be distributed to his heirs. The ruling says that the supreme Muslim ruler, or imam, would have the sole authority to carry out the execution.
Hussein remains in hiding as he fears for his life. An apostasy conviction is unprecedented in modern Kuwait. It is not an explicit crime under Kuwait's legal system, although the constitution stipulates that Shari'ah (Islamic law) is the basis for all Kuwaiti laws. Some Islamic societies, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, interpret Shari'ah to mandate the death penalty for apostates.
"Apostasy in the Islamic world is serious," Hussein told Christianity Today in a telephone interview. "Anyone, even an ordinary person, has the right to kill me without any penalty."