Rock Ronald Rozario
Updated: September 10, 2021 02:54 PM GMT
Children accompanying elderly Afghans residing in India take part in a demonstration outside the UN Refugee Agency office in New Delhi on Aug. 23 to protest against the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo: AFP)
A small community of Christians in Afghanistan face multiple dangers following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of US-led forces, Christian rights activists and observers say.
The lives of minority Christians have become more difficult than ever and they are bracing for increased persecution under Taliban rule, reports Mission News Network (MNN).
“Prior to Taliban rule, Christians already had a very difficult time living out their faith,” the field director for Asia at US-based Open Doors, a global Christian group supporting persecuted Christians, told MNN.
“They [Christians] 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.”
According to US-based International Christian Concern (ICC), Christians in Afghanistan are almost exclusively comprised of converts from Islam and are estimated to number 10,000 to 12,000. Due to persecution by extremist forces, Christians mostly live secluded lives hidden from the public eye.
For extremist groups like the Taliban as well as the conservative Afghan society, denouncing Islam is considered a disgrace and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered, ICC says.
The Taliban have been checking phones to check if there are any Bibles downloaded onto their phones
Following the Taliban takeover of Afghan capital Kabul on Aug. 15, a Christian leader appealed to the country’s Christian community to keep a low profile and stay home to avoid being targeted by Taliban fighters.
“Some known Christians are already receiving threatening phone calls,” the Christian leader told ICC. “In these phone calls, unknown people say, ‘We are coming for you'.”
In a recent viral video, a tearful Afghan Christian pleaded with Christians across the globe not to forget the underground church and vowed to “continue God’s work” in the conflict-torn country.
Christian groups have not confirmed any targeted killing of Christians by the Taliban so far.
However, Andrew Boyd, spokesman for Christian rights organization Release International, claimed that the Taliban have been “searching door to door” for Christians and at least one Christian has been killed.
“The Taliban have been checking phones to check if there are any Bibles downloaded onto their phones,” Boyd told UK-based GB News. “We have a report that at least one Hazara has been killed as a result of this.”
Shoaib Ebadi, an Afghan-Canadian Christian and executive director of Square One World Media, told Voice of Martyrs Canada (VOMC) that most Christian believers are discovered because their family members report them.
These relatives become “the first enemy” as they believe turning in Christian converts will cause their family members to return to the Islamic faith, said Ebadi, who has family members in Afghanistan.
And they are the ones sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with their neighbors, families and friends
Some media reports claimed that most foreign Christian leaders and workers have fled the country, while Afghan church leaders have received letters from the Taliban stating that their locations and activities are being closely monitored.
Amid all this bad news for Afghan Christians, Shoaib Ebadi says he sees “good news” for Christians despite the volatile situation.
“The good news is that Afghan Christians are now leading these groups [small house church fellowships]. They are meeting in their homes, risking their lives every day … taking God’s Word to the people of Afghanistan. And they are the ones sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with their neighbors, families and friends,” Ebadi told VOMC.