Response to Afghan Persecuted Church Rescue Believers
With the departure of foreign troops and the Taliban taking over the government, millions of normal, average people in Afghanistan are plunged into fear for their future.
For the past twenty years the economy has been heavily dependent on international aid and NGO’s providing services and employment for thousands of Afghans. Many are suddenly left without jobs, and the price of food is rising sharply. We are hearing from people who are desperate and hungry.
Afghanistan has an overwhelmingly young population, with over 60% of the population estimated to be under 25 years of age. Many of these young people are students, whose education has been suddenly interrupted. It’s not clear whether girls will be allowed to continue attending school beyond the primary grades. Stories of forcible abduction of young women in some places strike terror into families with girls of marriageable age.
Much attention has been focused on the extreme risks faced by Afghans who worked for the US and NATO armed forces, women in high-profile leadership positions, human rights advocates, and journalists. Less attention has been paid to the plight of persecuted religious minorities, as it’s such a tiny percentage of the population. Those in this group, however, face the most extreme danger.
Afghanistan has been a Muslim country for centuries, with the remaining pockets of animists/polytheists forcibly converted to Islam in the late 1800s. The small communities of Sikhs, Hindus, and Jews left the country over the past few decades, leaving a population of nearly 100% Muslim. In essence, to be Afghan is to be Muslim.
Historically, the few Afghans who have believed in Jesus over the years have been forced to practice their faith in secret, as conversion equates to apostasy from Islam, calling for the death penalty. The growth of the secret, underground church has been very slow up until the past decade, when it experienced explosive growth.
The stated aim of the Taliban is to implement strict Sharia law in the country, which would almost certainly include execution for anyone convicted of apostasy.
Those Afghans who have made the courageous choice to follow Jesus are now in deadly peril. They basically have three choices: 1) To renounce their faith and return to practicing Islam,
2) to continue to practice their faith secretly, remaining in hiding
3) to flee the country and find sanctuary in a place where they can freely practice their beliefs.
Some international aid workers who had to leave in August are now in almost daily contact with Afghan believers in Christ who are fearful for their lives. Some of these believers have courageously determined to stay in their country, where they can encourage other believers and be a quiet witness within their communities. Others remain in hiding, fearful to leave their homes even to shop for food and supplies, or else moving from city to city in hopes they will not be recognized. Still others have received direct threats from the Taliban and fled their homes to evade arrest. We have direct news of several Christians who have already been killed.
We would like to highlight the need of one particular large family (11 adults & 4 children) who fled their area because of immediate threats and is currently in hiding in a city away from their home. Once they cross the border to another country, they will need support and protection as they await processing to Canada. Currently Canadian Aid to Persecuted Christians is working to find a more durable situation for this Christian Afghan family, and others who are in an equally dangerous situation.
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