Please continue to pray for our brothers and sisters from Afghanistan, which is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian.
On 15 August 2021, the world looked on in horror at the images scrolling across their television screens. Afghan faces etched with fear and panic pressed against the fences at Kabul airport. A people dreading the return of the draconian regime of 20 years ago. A people fearing reprisals for their previous collaboration with the US-backed alliance. A people so desperate to escape that hundreds would even risk their lives clinging on to the outside of a departing aircraft.
So, what of the assurances of the Taliban claiming to be more moderate than their predecessors? Were the Afghan people’s fears unfounded? We look back over the last year to see the extent to which their nightmare has become a reality.
According to a May BBC news report: “When the Taliban first seized power last August, they initially appeared to be adopting a more flexible attitude than many had feared - refraining from issuing new laws governing how society should function. In recent months, however, there has been a clear hardening in their stance.”
Only one month after the takeover, the closure of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs demonstrated a return to the denigration of women that had previously characterised the years of Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001. It rapidly became clear that any progress made over the last 20 years in terms of freedom and opportunities for women was being nullified.
Despite Taliban officials stating that, under the current government, women will be allowed to study and work, the ‘in accordance with the group’s interpretation of Islamic religious law’ clause has provided false rationale preventing this actually becoming a reality. With the exception of healthcare workers, the Taliban are telling working women that they must stay at home until proper working systems are in place ‘to protect their safety’.
Furthermore, the U-turn which prevented girls returning to school at the start of the academic year in March demonstrates the Taliban’s lack of commitment to facilitating the education of secondary school aged girls. They have ordered girls’ secondary schools to stay closed until ‘a comprehensive plan has been prepared according to Sharia and Afghan culture’. Five months later, a seemingly simple issue to address (that of head coverings in accordance with Sharia [Islamic law]) remains unresolved and the lack of agreement over girls’ uniforms is keeping the doors of most girls’ high schools firmly shut.
The reestablishment of the ‘Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue’ is an echo from the past pointing to the Taliban’s desire to enforce a more ‘Islamic’ identity in keeping with their strict interpretation of Sharia. Although many of their rules are targeted particularly at women, men do not escape scrutiny - with even the length of their beards being prescribed. Any deviation from prescribed behaviours is considered disloyal to the regime’s strict ideals and therefore punishable as an act of non-compliance.
Whilst the current regime’s attitude towards women acts as an obvious barometer of Taliban control, the pressure on anyone not conforming to Islam is of even deeper concern. The Taliban’s drive for only the ‘purest’ form of Islam (represented in Sharia) has left no room for Christians (or other religious minorities) in Afghanistan.
In order to gain international credibility and recognition, the current regime are keen to present themselves as more tolerant towards minority religions. However, the reality is that believers still live in fear of the dire consequences that unfold when their faith is discovered. As an Open Doors partner in the region, Hana Nasri* shared earlier in the year, beheadings and public executions were common practice during the earlier Taliban rule of 1996-2001. Believers still live in fear of a similar situation taking place again. They have been faced with a stark choice: flee the country or live in hiding with fear of being found out and killed.
Thank you for your prayers – they really do make an enormous difference for our church family
Since the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan last year, it has never been more dangerous to be a secret Afghan believer – and our persecuted church family there are crying out for us to join them in prayer.
On our dedicated prayer page for Afghanistan you can find an outline for a time of prayer that can be used in church services. and also an undated monthly prayer diary.
Thank you for your faithful prayers for your Afghan family, and for this country that is facing so much turmoil. Open Doors has received another prayer update, with seven ways you can keep praying for Afghanistan and for your persecuted church family.
28 February 2022
Last Friday, September 24, a Taliban official declared Afghanistan's return to executions, including Sharia punishments such as amputation, stoning, and flogging. The Taliban leadership has previously given the impression that they would enforce a more humane kind of governance since they took power in August, yet this new announcement only shows a return to their hardliner roots. Taliban sympathisers within the country have also expressed support for the adoption of these penalties. Pray for the lawmakers and implementers of the law to uphold and preserve human life in Afghanistan. Pray for the Lord to turn their hearts from their wicked ways.
More than a hundred media companies in Afghanistan have reportedly ceased operations. In the months leading up to the Taliban takeover, many reporters have already fled for their lives, and those who have stayed are living in fear that reporting on sensitive information, such as the situation of women, could cost them everything. Journalists – especially local ones – are afraid.
Pray that Afghanistan would not fall into news censorship. Pray that Afghanistan citizens will continue to have access to reliable information. Also pray against misinformation – a lot of fake news about the situation of refugees and the situation of the underground church has been circulating in social media in and out of the country. Pray against the spread of lies.
Winter is coming in Afghanistan. This exacerbates the already dire situation of locals who have not had enough food, and have been struggling since (and even before) the height of the Taliban conflict. Now that the Taliban has been in power for over a month and that the economy has virtually come to a standstill, food prices have skyrocketed. The World Food Program recently reported that 93% of Afghan people have not been getting enough food to eat. Ask God to have mercy and feed the hungry.
The World Health Organization says all aspects of Covid-19 response have dropped in the country, and that the health system in Afghanistan is ‘on the brink of collapse.’ They report that approximately 90% of the country’s healthcare facilities are at the risk of closing. Pray for the Lord’s provision over Afghanistan’s healthcare system and for His healing for all those who are sick.
Saad*, one local believer, tells our frontline partners that he and his fellow Christians are already known to the Taliban. “The list has been circulated with our names on it,” he says. He mentions that in their secret network all they could do is ask one another about how they are doing – “We call one another and ask about headaches, shoulder pain, injuries, old health concerns, all in a bid to remain connected,” he shares. “For now, this is all we can ask.” Pray for protection for the believers who have been exposed to the Taliban, and protection for those who are already at risk of being killed. Pray for believers who are missing, that their loved ones will be able to find them.
Many governments, NGOs and ministries are involved in extraditing Afghan locals. Though many believers have chosen to stay, some desperately want to flee and they face huge risks. Many of those who want to flee are also without passports. Pray for the governments, ministries and private individuals helping those leaving Afghanistan. Pray too that in this situation, where so many are choosing to leave, that the Lord will keep His church within the country alive. Pray that the believers who have chosen to stay would not falter in their faith.
Open Doors partners are working around the clock to meet with refugees and believers. Pray that they be covered in the Lord’s protection and grace. Pray for their safe travel and for access to the right places and people. Pray for God’s peace to fill their hearts, for God’s love to overflow through them as they minister to and come alongside Afghan refugees. Pray for the church around the world to be prepared for the Afghan diaspora – pray for God to open their hearts to receive Afghan refugees with warmth, and to reach them with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.
15 September 2021
The past few weeks have been a devastating, confusing, and uncertain time for all Afghan people, and asylum-seekers have spread from Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries to many other places. In the wake of this global crisis, front line partners working with the refugees in Central Asia ask for your intercession, as the past weeks have taken such a huge emotional toll on the people.
“We are in such a difficult time for all refugees emotionally,” shares Aysha*, one of the ‘frontliners’.
“There are lots of refugees pouring into my area – families, women with children. Refugees, especially women, are emotionally broken, very stressed, and often crying because they lost their homes, because of what they experienced in the last weeks, and because of the situation in their country.”
Aysha continues, “We need prayers for wisdom, strength and new opportunities to serve the women, such as trauma counselling, and helping them assimilate in this new country. Pray that we can share the gospel with them and bring them to local churches. Please pray for the refugee women, for the Afghan people and for our ministry.”
Hamad*, another partner, expresses worry that the refugee crisis could lead to further tensions in his country (which we can't name for security reasons): “Due to what is happening today in Afghanistan, the situation in our country is now rather tense. We are very concerned that the people in our country with extremist Islamic views – those who dream about creating an Islamic caliphate – can take advantage of the situation in Afghanistan and start an Islamic revolt here.”
Hamad asks for continued prayers: “Please pray for this situation in our country and for the hearts of those people who want Islam to rule the state. Also, pray for us Christian believers, for wisdom and courage in such an anxious time to carry the gospel. Pray that we can carry the goodness and love of our Lord Jesus Christ to Muslim people in our country.”
9 September 2021
Taliban announce new leadership
Less than a month after its complete takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban has announced the newly appointed officials of its interim cabinet. According to as-yet-unconfirmed reports, this new government will be inaugurated on September 11, 2021 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The interim government will be helmed by new Prime Minister Mullah Hasan Akhund, who previously served as governor of Kandahar province. The Conversation describes Akhund as a 'conservative, religious scholar whose beliefs include restrictions on women and the denial of civil rights for ethnic and religious minorities'.
Another notable appointment is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new Acting Minister of Interior, a known extremist who’s on the FBI’s most wanted list. He is reported to have a $5,000,000 bounty on his head.
A Christian in the region has managed to share this prayer:
Dear Lord, while surrounded by the sounds and sights and smells of death, we find it hard to see the future. We find it hard to understand why these men of evil intent are the helm of affairs. The Bible says the Government is upon your shoulders. But this government is evil. Lord you change their evil intent. Lord what they mean for evil unto us, you turn it to good. Lord, may an attack like 9/11 never happen again. But may the hearts of believers everywhere pray for miracles and hope in this beloved and beautiful land. Help us Lord to love, to trust and to hope when it feels impossible. Amen
As you continue to see shocking images and hear shocking stories from Afghanistan, we know that you and all Open Doors supporters are keen to stand with Afghan people in prayer. But knowing how to pray is hard.
One of the key prayer beliefs of Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, is that we shouldn’t just pray FOR the persecuted church, but rather we need to pray WITH the persecuted church. Praying with someone means you listen to that person and pray the words that he or she prays.
What do the believers in Afghanistan pray for? From what we know of persecuted believers across the world, they want to survive and live, but at the same time, have already laid down their lives. They want to stay faithful until the end.
Those are the two main prayers: to survive and to remain faithful.
Praying with your brother and sister is a spiritual embrace, one that connects two hearts, so they can beat as one for the One.
And what if you run out of words? What if you don’t have enough information to pray?
"Pray for the Noahs, Daniels, Ruths, Naomis, Peters, Pauls, Marys and Marthas."
“Then pray the Bible”, a local friend in the region says. “Pray for the Esthers, that they can provide protection for the one they love. Pray for the Samuels, who may hear God’s voice calling out to them. Pray that they will say: ‘Here I am, Lord’.
“Pray for Christian Davids, men with a warrior heart. Pray for the Lydias, faithful women serving the church. Pray for the Abrahams leading their families. Pray for the Noahs, Daniels, Ruths, Naomis, Peters, Pauls, Marys and Marthas. Pray for each character in the Bible and their Afghan equivalents.
“Pray the Psalms of praise and the Psalms of lament. Pray the desperate words of Job and the comforting words of Jesus on the mount. Pray for visions of Jesus on the cross and visions of Jesus in heaven, welcoming those who have conquered the world.”
20 August 2021
As the Taliban settles into power in Afghanistan and reinstates Sharia (Islamic law), the small population of believers in the country fear the worst. In a recent interview with Reuters, high-ranking Taliban commander Waheedullah Hashimi confirmed that Afghanistan would not be a democracy under the Taliban, and that they will implement no law but Sharia.
He says, “There will be no democratic system at all because it does not have any base in our country… We will not discuss what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is Sharia law and that is it.”
"Christians in Afghanistan are facing insurmountable adversity. We must pray without ceasing." Brother Samuel
During their rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had been known to have an extreme interpretation of Sharia, including imposing oppressive rules for women and violent punishments on ‘infidels’, including believers who have left their Muslim faith to follow Christ.
Brother Samuel (name changed), Open Doors Field Director for Asia, continues to ask for prayers: “These are uncertain times for Christians in Afghanistan. It’s absolutely dangerous. We don’t know what the next months will bring, what kind of implementation of Sharia we will see, but we continue to ask you to intercede for our brothers and sisters. They are facing insurmountable adversity. We must pray without ceasing.”
In an exclusive interview with CBN, local believer Hamid (whose name has been changed for security reasons) shares fears that the Taliban will eliminate the Christian population. He says: “We know a Christian believer who we've been working within the north, he’s a leader and we've lost contact with him because his city has fallen to the Taliban. There are three other cities that we have lost contact with our Christian believers.”
“Some of the believers are known in their communities, people know that they converted from Islam to Christianity, and they are considered apostates and the penalty for that is death,” Hamid continues. “The Taliban are famous for carrying out that punishment.”
"Some of the believers are known in their communities... they are considered apostates and the penalty for that is death." Hamid, secret believer
Since the Taliban took full control on Monday, chaos and an eerie sense of calm has come over Afghanistan. Images of locals stampeding to board US airships have flooded social media, while in the streets and marketplaces, rifle-brandishing members of the Taliban roam to keep the peace.
Ex-President Ashraf Ghani, previously reported to have fled in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, has now resurfaced in UAE. Accused by the Russian Embassy in Afghanistan of leaving the country with a helicopter full of cash, Ghani maintains in his first public address that he was forced by his security officials to leave Kabul to prevent bloodshed.
Please continue to pray for Afghanistan.
A prayer for Afghanistan based on Psalm 57:1-5
Have mercy on them, my God, have mercy on them, for in You they take refuge. They will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed. We cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates us. He sends from heaven and saves, rebuking those who hotly pursue. God sends forth His love and His faithfulness. Your children in Afghanistan are in the midst of lions, forced to dwell among ravenous beasts. Men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth. Amen.
16 August 2021
Afghanistan is now held by the Taliban. This week, Al Jazeera released exclusive videos of Taliban fighters entering the capital city Kabul with ease, taking the reins in the Presidential Palace, and declaring an end to the 20-year war. President Ashraf Ghani fled the country over the weekend, reportedly to prevent further bloodshed.
"It’s a heartbreaking day for the citizens of Afghanistan, and an even more dangerous time to be a Christian,” says Brother Samuel, Open Doors Field Director for Asia (whose name has been changed for security reasons). “It’s an uncertain situation for the whole country, not just for secret believers. Our hearts are broken. We knew this could happen. We are not surprised but this does not make the pain any less.”
"It’s a heartbreaking day for the citizens of Afghanistan, and an even more dangerous time to be a Christian" Brother Samuel
Afghan citizens are in a frenzy – lining up in banks in a last-ditch attempt to withdraw their savings and flocking the Kabul airport to flee the country. Many locals who have spent the last couple of years helping the US forces are now applying for visas to leave.
Though the Taliban promises a more modern and reformed approach to government, fears remain as to how they will impose Sharia (Islamic law) in the days to come.
Brother Samuel adds, “Secret believers in Afghanistan are especially vulnerable. Prior to Taliban rule, they already had a very difficult time living out their faith, as they had to keep it secret from their families for fear of being shunned, or worse, killed. Now that the Taliban is in power, their vulnerability increases tenfold. It would be almost impossible to be a follower of Jesus in this country. We are monitoring the situation, but this is the time for us to ask God to have mercy not only on His people, but on this country as a whole.”
Afghanistan is number two in Open Doors’ World Watch List.
Please pray for the small group of believers in the country. They are walking on eggshells and are uncertain who to trust. Pray that they find strength, wisdom, and supernatural peace in God’s promises.
Pray for the displaced. A new wave of refugees is expected to come from Afghanistan to many parts of the Middle East and the rest of the world. Pray for God’s protection and provision over them in their journeys.
Pray for the women. Many women fear that the Taliban rule would mean they would be stripped of opportunities for education. Women involved in education during the past years could also be at risk – pray for their protection.
Pray for the sick. Though underreported in international media, Covid-19 cases are spiking in the country and hospitals are limited in what they can offer. There is no certainty as to how the healthcare system will be able to sustain itself with the new Taliban government. Pray that the healthcare system will not collapse.
Pray that the country will not be a haven for extremists. The Taliban government of 20 years ago are known enablers of extremist Islamic organisations. With their newfound control over Afghanistan, the country could be host to a new generation of terror groups.
Please use the prayer points in the article to join with the worldwide church in lifting up the people of Afghanistan - particularly the small number of Christians living there.
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