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Holding fast

"Holding fast" Continued...

Issue: "Food stamps surge," Nov. 19, 2011

According to NATO sources, Gen. David Petraeus-then commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan-raised the case in an early December meeting with Karzai (spokesmen for both governments would not confirm the discussion). Sima Samar, who chairs the Afghanistan Independent Rights Commission and was one of two female cabinet ministers under Karzai's interim administration in 2001-2002, confirmed in December that Karzai was aware of Musa's case.

But as snow blanketed Kabul and the year ended, Musa's despair deepened. One night he says, "I cried and asked the Lord, 'Why did you do this? I did not do any bad things. Why don't you help me?' During the night I saw a dream and in it Jesus ... saying, 'Musa, I am always with you.' I am lying on the ground and Jesus gave me His hand."

Musa said he woke up in a sweat, but afterward, "When people in prison speak bad to me, I laugh at them because I see that my Lord is alive."

The ordeal wasn't over, and when British Sunday Times reporter Miles Amoore visited Musa in early February, he described the convert as weak and limping, "looking haggard and speaking nervously in Dari, the local language." Guards had forbidden him to speak in English. "I don't care if they crucify me upside down," Musa told Amoore. "My spirit will still be alive. I am only afraid of God. Only he can send my soul to hell."

Not long after that interview, officers sent Musa to the attorney general's office to meet two officials, one an ambassador from the undisclosed country where Musa now lives and then U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. Both apparently were prepared to offer Musa and his family asylum (the U.S. embassy in Kabul did not confirm that the meeting took place, and several sources close to the case asked that further details not be divulged).

Musa says he told both diplomats, "I love much my country, I do not want to go, I love my community, I love my people, I love my work and my patients. But if you insist then you know better." He said he would not volunteer for asylum, he would have to be forced to leave. The ambassadors departed, and officials from the attorney general's office returned. They made it clear to Musa that the only way he could remain in Afghanistan was to renounce Christianity and return to Islam. He refused.

Someone came to take his picture, and several days later diplomats came to collect him from jail. At night they took him to the airport, where he boarded a jet and was flown from Afghanistan in February. His family joined him three weeks later.

In a new land, Musa and his family have some support from the government and a charity group, but he can't legally hold a job yet, and for eight months his children did not attend school. Now five of his six children, who range in age from 17 to 5 years old, are in school. The family has received important medical care-including overdue treatment for Musa's amputated stump and surgery to remove shrapnel from his other leg. And they have found a supportive church that is providing fellowship along with clothing and other essentials.

Challenges remain. Culture shock runs deep. The family must learn a new language to manage, and Musa says they have been cautious about interacting with other Afghan refugees because most are Muslims who may again put Musa's life in danger. In Norway Afghans at a refugee processing center attacked a Christian convert in September, scalding him with boiling water and acid. And just this month, Afghan refugees in India came under new threats of attack (see "Well-founded fear," July 16, 2011). For now, he is careful not to discuss his whereabouts and is not sure what his family's long-term plan will be.

Musa, who often calls himself "the sinnest person in the world," said he gradually came to see that "if I die or if I am released, it is the same." But now that he is released, he says, "Life is really good. I have my family, they are OK, and it was all the plan of God."

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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