Christian missionary activity in Muslim countries has always been dangerous. Islamic law forbids any Muslim to convert to another religion, on pain of death. And dhimmi laws for Christians forbid proselytizing. This just in from Tajikistan, via the Barnabas Fund: “A pastor who was also an active missionary has been shot dead while he was praying in a chapel.”
“At 9.00pm on Monday 12 January gunmen burst into a churchyard in Isfara in the north of Tajikistan and fired several rounds through a window at Sergei Bessarab as he was kneeling in prayer. Forum 18 news agency reported that on hearing the gunfire, his wife, Tamara, rushed to her husband’s side but he was already dead. Reuters also carried the story and confirmed he was shot 13 times with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
“A local newspaper had only a week before attacked Bessarab for his missionary work in this staunchly Muslim region. Women are often seen wearing the veil in villages and alcohol is taboo, indeed shops stocking it have sometimes been burnt down. The hard-line Islamic Revival Party garnered a large majority of the local vote in recent elections, despite central government attempts to curb the growth of Islamic extremism. Bessarab’s handing out of Christian literature aroused considerable local anger. Nevertheless police have not yet confirmed that the suspected motive for the murder was his missionary activity.
“Local opposition to the missionary work of this pastor is typical throughout the Muslim world. The reason lies in Islamic law, shari’a, which states that any male who converts from Islam should be put to death. Barnabas Fund is currently engaged in a major international campaign on behalf of converts from Islam focusing on the Islamic law of apostasy and the treatment of converts in Islamic societies. The Fund is calling upon Muslim religious leaders to condemn the harsh treatment of converts and to make public statements calling for a reform of shari’a teaching on apostasy to clearly affirm that Muslims who choose to convert to another faith are free to follow their personal convictions without fear of punishment or harassment. Further details of the campaign can be obtained by contacting Barnabas Fund or visiting the Apostasy Campaign pages on our website http://www.barnabasfund.org/apostasy.htm.”