Afghan Christians are either converts from Islam or the children of converts; they face severe penalties if their faith becomes known. Afghanistan is one of a few countries where the law imposes upon converts from Islam the death penalty for apostasy, in accordance with sharia, although no one has been executed in recent times. The converts also potentially face murder at the hands of relatives, members of the community, militants or the Taliban which controls part of the country. In recent years, radical Islamism has become more influential, particularly through the Deobandi movement.
Only the Lord knows the exact number of Afghan believers living in Afghanistan, but it is thought to be around 1,000. However, there could be many more secret believers. Many have fled to countries like Turkey and India.
Taliban-controlled areas ruthlessly enforce sharia and openly target Christians. The militant group Hezb-i- Islami (Islamic Party) has also attacked and killed Christians.
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 for guidance as to how to handle them.
In 2006, Abdul Rahman, a Christian convert, was charged with apostasy and sentenced to death. Following an international outcry, the Afghan authorities declared him mentally unfit. This meant that, according to sharia he could not be held responsible for apostasy. In 2011, another convert to Christianity, was arrested but released after nine months because authorities said he had agreed to return to Islam.
Public opinion is vehemently anti- Christian. There have been calls in the national parliament for the death penalty for apostates to be enforced.
Although evidence of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic Christian heritage has largely been eradicated, a district of Herat is still called Injil (“Gospel”). Afghan soldiers destroyed the last church building in 1973, which had served foreign Christians.
Pray that God will shield Afghanistan’s believers and that they will have access to and be encouraged by Christian radio and internet ministries. Ask the Lord to provide for Christian refugees.