Pressure Increases for Release of Afghan Aid Worker Arrested for Being Christian

Pressure is mounting for the release of an Afghan Red Cross worker who was arrested last summer for converting to Christianity.

The worker, Said Musa, 46, who left Islam roughly eight years ago, was arrested in May after an Afghan TV report showed locals being baptized and called for the government to crack down on apostasy.

Musa, a father of six, who lost a leg to a land mine and was working to help other amputees when he was arrested, reportedly was abused in prison and threatened with death if he did not renounce his faith.

Some Christian leaders say the U.S. government and media have not paid enough attention to Musa's case, and they are now calling on both to take action to secure his release. Others counter that the U.S. is working quietly but effectively for Musa and maintain calls for action may do more harm than good.

"Since his arrest, Mr. Musa has experienced beatings, sexual assault and sleep deprivation. Our current administration appropriately condemned this kind of treatment of our own terror suspects," Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday.

"Certainly we cannot stand idly by while a fellow human being is tortured and executed merely for exercising his freedom of conscience. This flies in the face of everything we say we are fighting for in Afghanistan."

And Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appealed Sunday to Obama via Twitter to "persuade the Afghan govt. not to execute our brother Said Musa."

John Piper, the pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., followed suit: "Mr. President, speak wisely and boldly, in private if necessary, for Said Musa, imprisoned in Kabul," he wrote on Twitter.

Rick Warren, Saddleback Church pastor and widely known television evangelist, tweeted to his nearly 250,000 followers, "Media CLAIM to champion free speech but if they really did, they'd report these stories everyday." He linked to a National Review article that questioned why Obama openly addressed a Florida pastor's threat to burn a Koran last September but hadn't made any public comment on the Musa case.

All three messages have been retweeted countless times.

Other Musa supporters say this new attention is a little late, and a little much.

It's a "very sensitive time," said Mark Helmke, a spokesman for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., who has been working on the case. "Prosecution has been halted. Quiet release (is) hoped for soon. … Our embassy is doing a good job to resolve this important human rights matter."

Knox Thames, director of policy and research at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, told he witnessed the U.S. government making strides in this case when he visited Kabul in December, adding that “quiet diplomacy is often the best in cases of this nature."

Jeff King, president of the International Christian Concern, which has been working on the case from its inception, added that while the new attention is welcome, some of the new reporting has been "over the top."

"Said's life has been threatened numerous times by Afghan officials, but at this point these threats are hard to take seriously," he said.

King said while it was hard to get the government engaged initially, the ICC has been fairly pleased with more recent efforts.

"There are numerous encouraging recent developments that should shortly come to light. Until these events are made public, it is counterproductive to talk about them openly," he said. "Regardless, we need to remain vigilant until he is released. Public pressure needs to remain high."