|World Watch List Rank||2|
|World Watch List Score||93/100|
|Leader||President Ashraf Ghani|
|Population||37.2 million I Thousands|
|WWL Rank in 2019||2|
|Persecution Level||Extreme Persecution|
Officially there are no local Christians in Afghanistan. Believers are in hiding. There are individual followers of Christ and small groups of believers, but no organised church.
Afghan citizens are not allowed to become Christians, and both their communities and families put them under immense pressure to ensure they don’t convert. Leaving Islam to become a Christian is seen as a betrayal and brings shame to Muslim families. Relatives will do everything they can to bring converts back to Islam, including acts of violence.
Christians have to be cautious and living out their faith in public is basically impossible, even within close circles of family and friends. If their faith is discovered, Christians can face severe consequences. They could be excluded from their community, have their home destroyed, be admitted to a mental institution or be killed for following Jesus.
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.
In cooperation with local churches and other partnering ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Afghanistan through: