There are thought to be around 1,000 Christians in Afghanistan, which is still blighted by conflict, 16 years since the U.S. invasion which toppled the Taliban’s Islamic regime. All of them are converts from Islam and face grave danger if they openly declare their faith. The resurgent Taliban, which has openly targeted Christians and kidnapped foreign Christian workers, now controls more than 30% of the country and is most dominant in the south, where it brutally enforces sharia.
Afghanistan is officially an Islamic republic and the country’s constitution maintains that no law may be contrary to Islam, the state religion. The criminal code only covers offences where there is not a specific penalty laid down in sharia, making Afghanistan one of only a handful of countries where Christian converts from Islam can legally face the death penalty for apostasy; the last time a case reached the courts in 2006, international outcry led to the man charged being declared “insane”, thus saving him from execution. Members of the Afghan parliament have called for the death penalty to be carried out against converts and Afghan media is vehemently anti-Christian. There is strong public hostility to apostates from Islam; converts risk total rejection by their families, as well potentially being murdered by relatives, community or the Taliban. Many Afghan Christians have fled abroad. Before Muslim invasions in the 7th century, the country had a significant Christian population, although Afghanistan’s Christian history is no longer visible; the last church building was destroyed in 1973.
In January 2015, Islamic State announced the formation of a franchise in Afghanistan. The group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Afghan’s capital, Kabul, in November 2016 and controls an area of territory in eastern Afghanistan, although it is engaged in a bitter rivalry with the Taliban.
Pray for embattled Afghan Christians, that they will know the Father as their hiding place and deliverance (Psalm 32:7), and be protected from hostility. Pray that they will be encouraged by Christian radio and internet ministries reaching Afghanistan. Ask the Lord to provide for Christians who have left the country and now live as refugees.