What does persecution look like in Afghanistan?
The Taliban’s takeover of power in August 2021 has forced most Christians either further underground or away from the country entirely. Many (if not all) house groups closed, with believers forced to leave behind everything they own. More than a year after the Taliban's takeover, any promises they made about recognising freedoms have proved to be false. Following Jesus remains a death sentence, if discovered.
The rigid form of society imposed by the militant group leaves no room for deviation, meaning Christians – almost all of whom are converts from Islam – must keep their faith secret. Leaving Islam is considered shameful and punishable by death under the prevailing Islamic law. Consequently, Christian converts face dire and violent consequences if their new faith is discovered, even from family members who must save their so-called 'honour' by getting rid of them.
Thousands of Afghan refugees are now living in countries bordering Afghanistan, often in poor conditions in camps for displaced people, and many Christians are among them.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Although the Taliban has deepest roots in the south, east and northwest of the country, the whole of Afghanistan is strictly Islamic. This means that Christians face difficulties wherever they are in the country. That said, control and supervision tends to be stricter in rural areas than in most cities. The level of hostility that Christians can face from their families and communities is consistent across the country.
“The Taliban are conducting a door-to-door search to find us. God alone knows who has informed them about the whereabouts and identities of the believers. If they find us, they kill believers on the spot.”Gulshan, a secret believer from Afghanistan
What has changed this year?
Almost all Afghan Christians are converts from Islam and are not able to practice their faith openly. Leaving Islam is considered shameful and punishable by death under the prevailing Islamic law. If exposed, Christian converts have to flee the country. The family, clan or tribe often chooses to save its ‘honour’ and deal with any known convert. After the Taliban took over government control on 15 August 2021, most Christians tried to leave the country and/or went into hiding. The takeover proved to be a radical change especially for women, who are confined to the walls of their homes once again, but also for ethnic and religious minorities, including Christian converts, who are seen as apostates.
As the Taliban consolidate power – despite appearing far from unified – Christian converts have to adapt and conform to the rigid form of society implemented. The decrease in scores, especially for violence, does not mean that the situation for Christians has improved, but that it has become much more difficult to establish for which reasons people suffered persecution.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Afghanistan?
Open Doors raises prayer for persecuted believers in Afghanistan, and provides practical support to Afghan Christians forced to flee to neighbouring countries.
How can you pray for Afghanistan?
- Pray for the protection of secret believers and that God's close presence will bring peace, joy and hope to their hearts
- Pray that those who have fled to neighbouring countries will be led to places where all their needs are met.
- That the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of the Taliban leaders towards women and religious minorities
Heavenly Father, we cannot imagine what it must be like to be a Christian in Afghanistan, but You know what they are experiencing. We ask that each of our Afghan brothers and sisters – whether in or outside the country – will know the depths of Your sustaining and strengthening presence. Protect them from harm, provide opportunities for believers to gather secretly, and meet all physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Soften the hearts of the Taliban towards women and religious minorities; may they see the value they bring to Afghan life. We boldly pray that Taliban leaders will have encounters with You that will transform not only their lives but the lives of people across Afghanistan. May Your kingdom break out in Afghanistan. Amen.