Christian convert killed in Iraq
Ziwar Muhammad Ismaíil, a Christian convert from a Muslim background, has been shot and killed for his faith, according to Middle East Concern.
The tragedy seems to be part of a growing hostility towards Christians in the country as the threat of military action increases.
Ziwar, who worked as a taxi driver in Zakho, in the Kurdish authority area of North Iraq, was shot by Abd al-Karim Abd al-Salam at a taxi rank early in the morning on 17 February.
Abd al-Salam approached Ziwar and challenged him to return to Islam. When Ziwar refused he opened fire with an automatic rifle.
Other taxi drivers gave chase, apprehending Abd al-Salam and handing him over to the police. Abd al-Salam claims that the Islamic prophet Muhammad appeared to him in a dream and told him to kill Ziwar.
Ziwar converted to Christianity seven years ago. Unlike many converts from Islam Ziwar had been quite open about his faith and, as a result, he had been threatened by his relatives and other Muslims and twice arrested, though not charged. Ziwar leaves a widow and five children.
All the major schools of Islamic law (Shariíah) agree that Muslim men who convert from Islam should be put to death, their marriages annulled, and their children and property taken away. This tradition is upheld and taught by many Muslim religious leaders around the world. In countries like Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia the death sentence for leaving Islam is part of the law of the land. In other countries they may be arrested on various pretexts and often beaten, tortured or imprisoned.
Even under more moderate Muslim authorities, such as those in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, converts may still face widespread hostility and aggression from their own families and communities. In several countries converts have been murdered by Islamic extremist groups, others have been killed by individual Muslims who believe they are doing the will of Allah by taking the law into their own hands.
Read Ekklesia's factsheet on the church in Iraq here