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Afghan Officials Cancel Christian Group's Event

(RFE/RL) KABUL, August 3, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan officials say a three-day "peace festival" proposed by a South Korean Christian group has been canceled and its organizers expelled from the country.

The event, scheduled to start on August 5, was to include a medical conference and two football matches at Kabul's Olympic Stadium between a Korean team and Afghanistan's national team.

It was being organized by the Institute of Asian Culture and Development, a Christian humanitarian-aid group based in Seoul that has run medical clinics in Afghanistan since January 2002.

Islamic clerics on August 2 accused some of the hundreds of group members arriving in Afghanistan of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity -- a serious crime in the Islamic republic.

Ali Askar Laly, an adviser for the Afghan Football Federation, told RFE/RL that allegations by Muslim clerics about Christian proselytizing by the Koreans have transformed the festival into a contentious political issue for the Afghan government.

"According to the information we have received, they wanted to do propaganda for Christianity here," Laly said. "Members of the nongovernmental organization that was bringing the [Korean football] team here were expelled from Afghanistan today. For that reason, it was not possible for [the Korean players] to come."

The group's Central Asia director, Kang Sung Han, told RFE/RL that the allegations of proselytizing are based on "wrong information" and that his group is shocked by the negative reaction it has received in Afghanistan.

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