Afghan Christians are either converts from Islam or the children of converts; they face severe penalties if their faith becomes known in this strongly Muslim country. Only the Lord knows the exact number of Afghan believers in their homeland, but it is thought to be around 1,000. Converts potentially face murder at the hands of relatives, zealous Muslims, or the Taliban which controls parts of the country. Alternatively, they could be executed for apostasy by the Afghan government.
Many Afghan believers have fled to other countries. Between 2015 and 2017, more than 9,000 Afghan asylum seekers, some of whom were Christians, were deported back to Afghanistan from Europe.
Afghanistan’s constitution enshrines Islam as the state religion, permitting no law contrary to Islam. For any crimes that are not covered in Afghan legislation, the authorities will turn to sharia (Islamic law) for guidance as to how to handle them. Taliban-controlled areas enforced sharia with public executions and amputations and openly targeted Christians.
In response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, US-led forces invaded Afghanistan for harbouring Al Qaeda, and toppled the Taliban who had been in power since 1996. However, the Taliban maintained its insurgency against the US-backed government, controlling certain districts. In 2020, the Taliban controlled 18% of the country, the government controlled 33%, and the rest of the country was contested by both.
After nearly 20 years of war that has killed tens of thousands of people, the Afghan government and the Taliban gathered in Qatar, in September 2020, to start discussing a permanent ceasefire and the rights of women and minorities.
In 1973, Afghan soldiers destroyed the last official church building on Afghan soil (apart from one in the Italian embassy), but its congregation, who were foreigners, continued to meet in other premises until 2010.
Ask God to shield Afghan believers and give them encouragement from the Bible and internet ministries. Pray that the intra-Afghan talks will lead to peace throughout the country and greater safety for Christians.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet