What will happen to the Christians in Afghanistan?
With the events of the last few days, we can only expect the pressure to increase, making the living conditions of Christians even more difficult, if possible. By Ted Blake.
19 AUGUST 2021 · 10:00 CET
On 16 August, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) issued a call to prayer for the country of Afghanistan. In the statement, WEA General Secretary Bishop Dr Thomas Schirrmacher said:
"We are deeply concerned about recent developments in Afghanistan and the dire prospects for all those who do not fit into the Taliban vision of society. Women, who will be among those who have the most to lose, will likely again be prevented from enjoying basic rights, including tertiary education, professional careers and even freedom to move around on their own".
"What is less reported is the plight of religious minorities, including Christians, who have suffered severe oppression over the past twenty years and are now at even greater risk".
The majority of Christians living in Afghanistan are Christian converts from Islam. This puts them in a particularly vulnerable position because, according to this religion, there is no freedom to convert from Islam to any other religion. Converts are considered infidels and deserve death.
In the World Watch List published every year by Open Doors, Afghanistan ranks second only to North Korea in its persecution rate. This shows how Afghan Christians were already in a position of vulnerability. With the conquest of the country by the Taliban, the situation of Christians can only get worse.
Afghan society is clan-structured, which means that the family plays an important role in the situation of Afghan Christians. The first point of vigilance among Afghan Muslims to detect Christians is the family.
No family wants to suffer the dishonour of having an unfaithful member. Therefore, when it is discovered that a family member has converted to Christianity, the family becomes very concerned. They take immediate action. The converted person may be pressured in several ways to return to Islam.
The Same faith Different persecution report confirmed that persecution against men and women differs because of the weaknesses of each sex. Women may be sold into prostitution or slavery, denied food, water or medical care, locked in a room, severely beaten, burned or sexually abused while men, on the other hand, may be subjected to verbal abuse, imprisonment, torture, sexual abuse, and even the threat of death.
The immediate family is the starting point for this persecution. However, if the first-degree family does not take action (they are tolerant of the convert), the clan may take action or someone may alert the authorities to take action.
All those consequences for the converts were already happening before the Taliban took over Afghanistan. The situation for a Christian before the events of these days was grave and extremely dangerous. A Christian in the region, seeing the events, said that the situation for Christians has worsened tenfold.
In addition to the danger of being discovered, there is the lack of spiritual fellowship for Christians. Since they cannot be discovered under any circumstances, they cannot easily meet to encourage each other. Mere association with a Christian is proof enough to identify one as a Christian and put him under pressure to abandon his faith (if he has one).
Two Christians can live in the same city and know nothing about each other. This makes it extremely dangerous to meet another Christian. A blind date can lead a Christian to give himself away to a spy. That is why Christians do not trust each other because they do not know who they are dealing with.
Christians who are discovered are quickly and quietly brought under Islamic law in order not to draw international attention to their actions against religious freedom.
Regarding the family, Christians cannot legally marry because only Muslim marriages are recognised. Children born of such marriages are considered Muslim and receive documentation indicating their Islamic belief. In turn, parents who dare to teach their children about their Christian faith risk being unwittingly betrayed by the child.
If one party of the marriage is converted, the other party will be pressured to file for divorce. In a divorce case, the Christian is faced with the dilemma of losing custody of his or her children and he probably will not be able to see them either.
In the religious sphere, Christians face the dilemma of participating in Islamic activities in order not to be discovered or not to participate at the risk of being accused of being an infidel.
The bonds of control over citizens in this country are extensive and cross-cutting. This makes life for Christians in Afghanistan very difficult. The risk of being discovered and punished is very high. Now, with the events of the last few days, we can only expect the pressure to increase, making the living conditions of Christians even more difficult, if possible.
This is the main reason why the World Evangelical Alliance and the Spanish Evangelical Alliance, launch a global invitation to prayer on behalf of Christians in this country.
Prayer is the action of asking God to act on their behalf. We know that He is more interested than anyone else in the spread of the gospel message throughout the world. Our prayer work is key to achieving this goal.
Ted Blake, Director of Open Doors Spain (Puertas Abiertas España).