Western aid groups deny religious agenda in Afghanistan

June 2, 2010

convertTwo Western aid organisations have denied allegations they were engaged in Christian proselytising in Afghanistan after the government suspended their activities following a television report.  Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid said they had been operating in Afghanistan for decades and their work was entirely humanitarian.

“Norwegian Church Aid has no mandate to influence people’s religious beliefs in any part of the world — neither in Afghanistan,” the organisation said on its website.

“We have never and will never engage in any religious proselytism. Such activities are contrary to our mandate as a humanitarian organization, and we fully respect the religion of the communities we serve,” Maurice A. Bloem, Church World Service”s deputy director and head of programs, said in a statement.

A private Afghan television said the two groups were trying to convert Muslims, triggering a government investigation. Proselytising is an offence punishable by death in Afghanistan.  Answering a question at a news conference on Tuesday, Waheed Omer, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said the government was taking the matter very seriously.

Read the full story here.

(Photo: Abdul Rahman, an Afghan convert to Christianity, holds a Bible at a Kabul court in this March 22, 2006 video frame grab. Rahman faced the death penalty for converting but Kabul relased him after an international outcry and he was allowed to emigrate to Italy. Rahman told a  judge he became a Christian while working for an aid group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan/Reuters TV)

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