Another Afghan Martyr

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Another Afghan Martyr  (1921) 
January 1921 edition of The Moslem World Quarterly Review

In every land the Moslem convert is a pervert from Islam and, therefore, loses all his rights of property and person, if the old law of Islam is enforced. In many countries this is now impossible, but on the borders of civilization the fanatical spirit of Islam dies hard. Mrs. V. H. Starr of Peshawar tell of a Moslem convert, a lad of eighteen, who laid down his life for Christ.

"Flower of the King." was not an Indian but belonged to the Afridis, one of the wild Afghan tribes who live beyond the British border on the northwest and who, like all the trans-frontier people, are bigoted Moslems. He left his people and came to the hospital, a rough hill lad, asking for work. He was put on as a coolie, and proved intelligent and quick, and a good worker. Now the staff of the hospital are all Christians; this is a rule, for it is a mission hospital, with all that this stands for. The men and boys on the staff are therefore Indians from the Punjab, who have usually received their education in a mission school, and to them the Afghan is a foreigner. The hospital servants and coolies, however, who come from the city and surrounding villages are illiterate, and usually are Mohammedans. They are not obliged to attend the morning prayers and Bible study for the staff, which precedes the hospital work each day; but Flower of the King was always there, and before long asked to become a Christian. He needed testing and much teaching, and it would have been many months before he could have publicly confessed Christ in baptism. As time went on he was promoted to the work of a "probationer" in the operating theatre, thus earning his living and receiving regular instruction in greater things at the same time.

In 1914, his father, little brother, and others of his "clan" come down to Peshawar on business, and seemed quite glad to see the boy again and to find him earning regular wages. They appeared friendly and there was nothing to cause uneasy thoughts. One day the lad came to ask the doctor for extra time off duty as his father wished to take him to see a sick relative staying not far away. He was given a half-day, and, locking the door of his little room in the hospital quarters, he went off, dressed in a new blue turban for the occasion, and with a happy smile on his face — a very much smarter and more disciplined person than the lad of a year before.

Evening came and he did not return. Inquiry was made, but no trace was found. On the frontier such a disappearance is not difficult to accomplish. His friends at the hospital feared for him. Was there treachery; had the worst happened? Or had he been persuaded to return to his people? For the Pathan or Afghan lives in the life of his clan. But if so, what of his faith? As yet he knew so little of the meaning of Christianity. It was feared that he had proved unworthy, and so would not return.

Later, what is believed to be the truth came to light. The lad's uncle, his father's brother, was again trading in Peshawar, and told the story in the bazaars of the city and in time it reached the staff of the hospital. It seems that, wholly unsuspecting, the son had gone off with his father — to what place is unknown, but in all probability over the frontier, a matter of ten miles or so, out of reach of the arm of the law. There he was reproached with the disgrace brought on the family, indeed on the whole tribe, because of this talk of turning Christian.

The Afghans are fanatical Moslems; the Son of God is despised and rejected by the people of the frontier, and to become one of His followers is to lose all honour, and may not be tolerated by followers of the prophet, whose creed is: "There is one God and Mohammed is the prophet of God." There was but one alternative: either the new faith must be given up, or his life. Details are unknown. It is useless to conjecture; the bare fact that was told remains, that the Afridi lad was stoned by his own father and other Mohammedans, because for him there was "no alternative." Who knows? Perhaps for this Stephen of the twentieth century also the heavens opened, and "he saw the glory of God and Jesus."