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Originally published May 31, 2010 at 8:30 PM | Page modified June 1, 2010 at 8:38 AM

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Afghanistan suspends 2 Christian aid groups

The Afghan government suspended the operations of two church-based relief groups Monday over suspicions that they were involved in converting Afghans to Christianity, even though the evidence against them apparently consisted of nothing more than a listing in a telephone directory.

The New York Times

KABUL — The Afghan government suspended the operations of two church-based relief groups Monday over suspicions that they were involved in converting Afghans to Christianity, even though the evidence against them apparently consisted of nothing more than a listing in a telephone directory.

An Afghan television station, Noorin TV, broadcast photographs that it claimed showed Westerners' baptizing Afghans and other Afghans' praying to Jesus at private prayer meetings.

Converting to any religion from Islam is a crime in Afghanistan, and proselytizing is also outlawed.

The suspended groups, Church World Service, an American organization, and Norwegian Church Aid, say they do not proselytize.

Both groups disburse millions of dollars in aid. Church World Service employs 190 people and Norwegian Church Aid 50 people in programs here, the government said.

Students at Kabul University staged a protest Monday in response to the report, briefly blocking streets around the campus.

Mohammed Sediq Amarkhiel, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economy, which regulates aid groups, said there was no actual evidence against the two groups, which were known for "doing a good job here." However, Amarkhiel added, the ministry decided on the suspensions because the television reports "raised suspicions."

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