Afghanistan

Tribal loyalty is the strongest and most important influence on people’s lives in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan

World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
2 93/100
Leader Population
President Ashraf Ghani 34.2 million | thousands of Christians
Main Religion Government
Islam Islamic republic
WWL Rank in 2017 Persecution Level
3 Extreme Persecution

All Christians in Afghanistan are converts and are not able to live their faith openly, neither alone nor in community and have to stay in utmost hiding. There is a small expatriate Christian community in Kabul, mostly comprised of diplomats and members of the international forces, but if they are able to meet, they are doing so in the highly secured diplomatic zone. As this has nothing to do with the rest of Afghanistan, the expatriate community is not considered for WWL scoring.

In many cases, converts are simply considered insane, for no-one in his right mind would even think of leaving Islam. If they cannot be convinced to return to their old faith, they may end up in a psychiatric hospital, beaten up by neighbors and friends and/or their houses destroyed. Depending on the family, they might even be killed. On the other hand, when families witness the life-changing power of Christ in a known Christian’s life, it can also happen that the whole family converts. In these cases, this must be kept absolutely secret. Due to the extreme pressure, some Christians have to leave the country.

PERSECUTION IN AFGHANISTAN

Saif heard the gospel on a Christian radio programme. There are no churches and few indigenous believers in Afghanistan, so the fact that he was able to hear about Jesus was a miracle.

But the greatest miracle came when he brought an Injil, New Testament, to his home. "I have seven children. One of them was disabled and could not walk. When I brought the New Testament into my house, my daughter started to move. I began to read from the Bible and she started to walk!"

However, Saif didn't know how to explain this to his neighbours. "I am so afraid," said Saif. "I believe in Jesus now, and my wife also, but I still go to the mosque to pray five times a day."

Afghanistan is a tribal society, and loyalty to your family, clan and tribe are incredibly important. Leaving Islam is seen as treason, and Christianity is viewed as a Western religion which is hostile to Afghan culture and society. If a Christian is discovered, they may be compelled to return to Islam by their families and tribal leaders through occult practices, torture or even by being sent to a mental hospital - their families believe no sane person would leave Islam. Baptism is punishable by death - several believers were killed in 2016 when their faith was discovered by their wider families.These believers also face the added threat of attack by extremists. Some militants have pledged allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State and announced the 'caliphate of Khorsan' - ancient Khorsan included the north-western part of Afghanistan as well as parts of Iran and Pakistan. The Taliban, another extremist militant group, also remains active in Afghanistan.

Converts will keep their faith completely secret - simply meeting in small groups can be dangerous, and even the internet is closely monitored. Just the suspicion that you may have converted can lead to your arrest or the destruction of your home or business.

Saif was abducted by extremists who had somehow discovered his faith. "They wanted to kill me and my wife also. The men forced me into a car and we started driving. All of a sudden we ran into a soldier's patrol... Then my kidnappers ran off. The soldiers wanted to know why I was taken by these men and I had to lie. I told them it was because I supported the government."

Despite these dangers, Saif and his wife continue to follow Jesus in secret. Only God knows how many secret believers like them are in Afghanistan.

HOW WE HELP

In cooperation with local churches and other partnering ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Afghanistan through:

  • Literacy training
  • Vocational projects
  • Emergency aid to victims of violent persecution
  • Women's ministry
  • Bible literacy
  • Pastor's training
  • Counselling and trauma therapy.

PRAYER POINTS FOR AFGHANISTAN

  • For God to strengthen and encourage His followers so that they remain faithful, despite pressure from family and friends
  • That the Lord of Hosts will protect the small number of Christian converts who are in hiding
  • For stability and peace in the country, and an openness to religions other than Islam.

 

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