Monday, January 23, 2006

The Bible or the Axe

William O Levi

Shari’a came suddenly, though not unexpectedly. One day we had some illusion of freedom, and the next day we had none. It was almost funny how the new military leadership put a positive spin on the whole thing. They accused the Christian leaders from the free government of being ‘soft on crime.’ The Shari’a, they explained, would rid the people of the scourges of alcohol, prostitution, immorality, and all sorts of petty crimes. Christians, they insisted, were hypocrites who failed to enforce the moral code that they claimed to believe in.
The fundamental principle of Shari’a is that freedom disturbs the moral order and fosters crimes against Islam Therefore, freedom must be ended, along with the permissive Christian philosophy of government. And both were summarily eliminated.

It didn’t take long to see the results of Shari’a. There was a sudden rise in the number of amputees, as petty thievery was met with machete justice. A man’s hand for a loaf of bread seemed a price too high to pay. But who would dare to say so? The pain of the new law was felt by Muslims and Christians alike. Most of the Muslims [in the Sudan] were moderates who didn’t particularly welcome the religious police into their lives. But they were cowed by the pressure to conform to the Shari’a, because the edicts came from their own mosques. At least the Christians had some reason to expect that some of the laws would not apply to them.

Through the early days of the Shari’a, Pastor Ben kept up his evangelistic efforts. He had developed a program of street preaching that he took to down-town Juba’s business district. People from the congregation would accompany him to a street corner, singing songs in Arabic and attracting groups of onlookers. After the singing, Pastor Ben would deliver a gospel message and an invitation to attend the local church. It was a popular ministry, and I enjoyed going along and singing songs for the people who stopped to listen. But it soon became apparent that the military rulers were going to apply the law across the board, and we found that we were bound by the rules of the religious police just as our Muslim friends and neighbours were. We realised that we would be forced to protest the Shari’a if we hoped to retain some measure of our religious freedom

But protest was a dangerous thing.

From chapter 9 of The Bible or the Axe – one man’s dramatic escape from persecution in the Sudan, published by Moody Press 2005
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