- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

He sat in my office, a Turkish scholar and theologian who helps people who are tortured for their faith.

According to Ziya Meral, it’s the converts from Islam to Christianity who are some of the most forsaken on Earth.

The police don’t help them; their families hate them; and their friends want to kill them. And some of the worst treatment occurs in the gulags of America’s allies.

“Egypt is one of the worst countries in terms of torture,” Mr. Meral said. “Once you are detained, that’s it. The security services can keep you without charges for six, seven months, and then renew those charges.”

It was there he encountered a man who had endured horrific suffering for leaving Islam.

“A few days into his torture, he broke down and gave up hope,” Mr. Meral said. “They were laughing and saying, ‘You’re screaming and there is no one out there. No one can help you.’”

Of the world’s 2 billion Christians, 200 million are persecuted in some way. Many of them are in Islamic countries or in rabidly anti-religious regimes such as North Korea’s. These countries ignore the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants people freedom to choose their religion.

The persecution from Muslims is so intense, 70 percent of all Islamic converts to Christianity give up their adopted faith in two years, Mr. Meral said.

“Your society, your family, everyone is against you and you are completely left alone,” he said.

Once their switch to another faith is made known, converts first lose their jobs. Angry parents will seek to have their children taken away from them. Others are told their marriages are no longer valid. In many countries, secular law is subservient to Islamic Shariah law, which proscribes death for converts.

Mr. Meral has a book, “No Place to Call Home: Experiences of Apostates From Islam and Failures of the International Community,” published by Christian Solidarity Worldwide. It is about people like Jeje Nehamiah Baki, a nomad from Chad who converted to Christianity in 1995. His father-in-law took custody of Mr. Baki’s wife and children and when the convert tried visiting his family in 2002, the father-in-law killed Mr. Baki’s oldest son to teach the father a lesson.

Or Nissar Hussein, a British citizen living in a majority-Pakistani community in Britain who converted to Christianity in 1996 along with his wife, Qubra. When groups of Asian men began smashing the windows of their home, throwing garbage at their front door and driving a car into Mr. Hussein’s parked automobile, the police refused to protect them. Local churches were of no help either.

Mr. Meral was particularly shaken by the two-hour torture session, followed by the murder of two converts to Christianity and a German missionary in Malatya, Turkey, on Jan. 28, 2007. One of the dead was Necati Aydin, a former schoolmate.

“Christians in the Middle East are asking ‘Where is God?’ Most of the world doesn’t have a warm place to stay or health insurance. Does God love the West more?” he wondered. Now 30, Mr. Meral was 19 when he announced he had converted.

Since then, “I’ve had such problems with my family,” he said, adding he’s nearly given up his faith twice. “It’s always been such a continual struggle to remain a Christian. What does it mean to believe in a crucified God?”

• Julia Duin’s column Stairway to Heaven runs Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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