It is almost 18 months since Taliban fighters swept into Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and took back control of the country. So much has changed for the worse for Afghan Christians in that time – but they have not lost their hope, thanks to your continued prayers. Hana*, an Open Doors partner in the Gulf region, and other Afghan believers share what life is like under the Taliban regime, and how the church continues to stand strong.
During the takeover, the Taliban were going door-to-door with a list of Christians. “The door-to-door action involved groups of soldiers launching violent attacks on those on the list, and their families,” says Hana*, an Open Doors partner in the Gulf region. “Many have been killed as an example of retribution for years of being out of power. Others have fled the violence and live in hiding. Christians who worked with the former regime and the West are under particular pressure. There is no sign of any forgiveness.”
“If I would be in Afghanistan now, I would not be alive today, for sure,” says Nilufar*, an Afghan refugee. “They already killed lots of people.”
It's not just Christians who don’t trust the Taliban, of course. As Hana says, “The Taliban have lost the trust of all people, and many live a life of uncertainty. In fact, things are getting worse; on days when policies become moderate, they are changed to even more harsh policies in hours. The banking system has collapsed, and inflation is at an all-time high.”
"If I would be in Afghanistan now, I would not be alive today, for sure." Nilufar, an Afghan refugee
Abdulla* is an Afghan refugee now living in Central Asia. He says, “Ordinary people in Afghanistan live in great danger. When they get up in the morning, they can't be sure if they'll live to see the night. A lot of terrible things are happening there, which we learn about from our friends and relatives. They say that the Taliban often go out in the evenings; they break into houses and can just kill for any reason.”
Christians who have not been able to flee must keep changing their location to avoid detection. “There is a great deal of fear among the followers of Jesus; many have had to migrate to other parts of the country,” Hana shares.
Even in the midst of this situation, where many are desperate and living in great financial difficulty, Christians are faithfully supporting one another, Hana adds: “The banking system has collapsed and inflation is at an all-time high. As more people were afraid to return to work and women have not been able to go back to work, family incomes have gone down; therefore many of the faithful are having to share what little they have with each other.”
"Many of the faithful are having to share what little they have with each other." Hana, Open Doors fieldworker
Afghanistan has dropped from number one to number nine on the Open Doors World Watch List, but Christians remain in grave danger and many have been forced further underground, making them less visible for attack. In the past year, the Taliban has turned their attention to consolidating power and have not been explicitly targeting non-Muslims – so there have been fewer violent incidents against Christians that can be clearly linked to their faith. In this complex situation, persecution is affecting almost everyone in many different ways.
However, since leaving Islam is considered punishable by death under the prevailing Islamic law, choosing to follow Jesus remains an extraordinarily brave decision to make, because it can have devastating consequences – be it at the hands of the authorities, or even a believer’s family, tribe or clan in an attempt to preserve its ‘honour’.
Education for women and girls has come to a complete halt. One refugee Afghan believer shared that her parents – who still live in the country – describe Afghanistan as a ‘prison’ for women. “This is the return to the ways of an extremist branch of Islam that sees women as the ‘property’ of men who have one purpose: to produce more soldiers,” explains Hana. “Therefore, for some it is a prison; others have been forced into marriage with Taliban fighters who abuse them for the purpose of raising a family.
"The women now live as though they were in a closed box." Nilufar, an Afghan refugee
“The levels of fear rising in the community in Afghanistan ensures compliance, as anyone who disagrees with the regime are tracked and killed later. The numbers of female activists killed in Afghanistan continues – now as state-sanctioned and approved actions.”
“The women now live as though they were in a closed box,” says Nilufar. “They can’t breathe. If a woman goes out, she doesn’t know what will happen with her in the next 10 minutes. Will she return home … or not?”
“Women don’t have any human rights there,” agrees another refugee, Shafika*. “If a woman refuses to wear the hijab, she will either be killed or severely beaten.”
But – praise God! – the church continues to shine a light amid all this darkness and fear. “Christians stay because they are called to Afghanistan by Jesus, and they are obedient to His call,” Hana says. “They are a part of the land – they feel it is their home. They’re not visitors or tourists: they are there for the purpose of being Christ to their neighbour, even if the neighbour seeks to kill them.”
With your continued prayers and support, our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan are being anchored in God’s hope. “God is continually at work in Afghanistan – because He has always worked in Afghanistan,” says Hana. “Even though there are only a handful of believers, He has been faithful to them. He continues to answer their prayers, give them the strength to endure suffering and call them to Him at the time of His choosing. God continues to open doors for those searching for Him. God continues to lead the visible and freer church like yours in the West to pray for them, so you can recognise yourself as being of one body.”
"When I pray, I feel that Jesus is sitting next to me and listening to me." Nargis, an Afghan refugee
“I feel like Jesus is always here,” says Nargis*, an Afghan refugee living in a neighbouring country. “When I pray, I feel that He is sitting next to me and listening to me. Even though I have so many problems, I see His grace and His mercy in my life. And I still haven't lost my hope.”
Afghan believers and Open Doors fieldworkers are asking you to keep praying. Abdulla shows astonishing forgiveness - he also asks that you pray for the Taliban: “Of course, the Taliban are our enemies, but I ask you to pray for their salvation.”
*Name changed for security reasons
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