The images are hard to forget.
Traumatized civilians hanging on in desperation as cargo planes ramp up for take-off. The Taliban wielding weapons. And maybe most somber of all, the raised white flag of terror, declaring a new government across an entire country.
It’s been a year since the Taliban took full control over Afghanistan. What has changed over the past 12 months, and what’s the status of the Afghan church?
After the takeover, the Taliban made some key promises to quell fears and speculation in the international community, promising that there would be opportunities for women, including continuing education. But it didn’t take long for the Taliban to renege on their pledges.
It took only three weeks for the hollow promises to shatter. The Taliban has since declared that no girl is allowed to pursue an education past sixth grade. This grave decision cripples and devalues Afghan women who have fought so hard for a small degree of independence and justice. Banning education means women can’t have or pursue professional careers. Instead, they’re forced to rely solely on their husbands or male family members for financial support and status.
Streets of Kabul
The treatment of Christians
Simply put, the situation for Christians in Afghanistan is beyond desperate. Afghan Christians risk death if they’re discovered; many have fled for their lives and the lives of their children. Believers who remain are considered traitors; enemies of the state, their tribe and their community. Punishment for being found out is death.
Afghanistan is No. 1
on Open Door’s 2022 World Watch List for a reason—it couldn’t be any more dangerous to be a Christian there. It’s nearly impossible to talk to the few Christians who remain in country, because of the critical risk it could mean to their lives. There are no churches, gatherings or worship services. Any Christian faith must remain behind closed doors. One slip-up could mean arrest, torture and worse.
While Afghanistan has never been safe for Christians, under Taliban rule the country has now become a hunting ground for Christians. The Taliban has gone to great lengths to flush out Christians and other religious minorities. Christians dare not go out in public to meet, shop or get medical treatment. They’ve been driven underground simply to survive.
“The Taliban are going door-to-door, snatching young girls and destroying families,” said one Christian mother who stayed behind in Afghanistan. “They are conducting a door-to-door
We live in fear that the Taliban will come for us.
Afghan Christian mother
search to find us [Christians]. We live in fear that the Taliban will come for us.”
Our Open Doors Communications Director for Asia had this to add: “When you get a house visit, the Taliban want to see if you are a good Muslim in their eyes, according to their standard of what makes a good Muslim. So, if you are a Christian, you’re not just a bad Muslim; you are an apostate—and you will be targeted. The Taliban are hunting down anyone who is not with them—that includes Christians.”
A village in northern Afghanistan
Does any hope remain?
In Matthew 17:20, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed... nothing will be impossible for you.
Although the Taliban flag still waves high over Kabul, there remains hope for Afghanistan, and it lives in the Christians left behind. It’s even taking incredible shape. What evil forces meant to squash, God has used to grow His kingdom in miraculous ways.
For example, when the Taliban began initiating that women 12-years-of-age and younger were no longer allowed to attend school, Fazlia*, a teacher and a Christian, made a life-changing decision
She fled the country but brought her nieces, nephews and seven of her students with her. Each day, she continues to teach her students Bible songs and stories.
One of our partners had a chance to meet with Sister Fazlia, and as broken as she was over her complete upheaval of life (she also left her fiancee), through tears, she pointed up to Heaven, declaring that’s where her help, healing and courage come from.
When asked about the children, Fazlia added, “I have always loved them very much. I wouldn’t trust anyone else to take care of them. I made the right choice.”
Although we don’t see the dramatic footage and crushing images on our screens—those we saw a year ago—Afghanistan remains a country in disarray, but as we might see it as a place of ashes, we must believe God is continually moving, shaping and creating beauty in the chaos.
Pray for our family without ceasing
We have an incredibly brave church family alive and well in Afghanistan, and they need our prayers.
Let’s remember to pray for our Afghan family. Let’s pray for those who must live lives of secret faith, lives of fear, oppression and unbelievable persecution; let’s pray for their continued faith among the ruins, and a knowing that although they can’t share their beliefs publicly, their Church family around the globe has not forgotten them—and will never forget them.
for our Afghan family who live under fear and oppression
Let’s pray for the friends and families of our brothers and sisters. Let’s pray they will encourage instead of call out, lift up instead of put down and spread the gospel instead of trying to silence it.
And let’s remember to pray for those who persecute. It can be hard to pray for them, especially at a time like this. But let’s believe God can change even the most hardened hearts. Let’s pray they will see the error in their ways, promote freedom over tyranny and that Jesus’ life-changing love will shine a light through them.
*Name changed to protect identity
Pray for Afghanistan
Father God, please hear our prayers for our Afghan family. Let them know they are remembered and cared for. And, most of all, let there be peace—Your unwavering, perfect peace, within our church family, their persecutors and across the entire country of Afghanistan.
Today Christians all over the world are pressured, arrested, attacked and killed for their faith.
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