Afghanistan’s small Christian minority is receiving little media attention, despite being one of the most threatened groups in that country.
An Afghan Christian leader has asked his community not to leave their homes
Yesterday, the NGO International Christian Concern (ICC) pointed out that for the clandestine Church of that Asian country “the return to Taliban rule has filled many with fear and uncertainty.” An Afghan Christian leader, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, told ICC: “We are telling people to stay in their houses because going out now is too dangerous.” The Christian NGO notes: “While a general amnesty has been announced by the Taliban, this leader fears that Christians will still be targeted by Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Kabul and other cities.“
It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 12,000 Christians in that country
ICC has noted that Afghanistan’s Christian community is made up almost exclusively of converts from Islam: “Some estimate the Christian population to be between 10,000 and 12,000, making it the country’s largest religious minority group. However, due to extreme persecution, the Christian community remains largely closeted and hidden from the public eye.“ The NGO adds: “Their status as converts makes Afghan Christians direct targets for persecution by both extremist groups and society in general. In Afghanistan, leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered. In many cases, known Christians must flee Afghanistan or risk being killed.“
Some Afghan Christians are already receiving threats
“According to the Taliban’s ideology, Afghanistan is a Muslim country and non-Muslims must leave Afghanistan or accept second-class status. For Christians coming from convert backgrounds, the Taliban will consider them apostates and subject to Sharia’s deadliest consequences,” ICC notes. The Afghan Christian leader consulted by this NGO has pointed out: “Some known Christians are already receiving threatening phone calls,” and in some of them they are told: “We are coming for you.”
The fear of Christian families for their children
That Christian leader comments that life under Taliban rule is already very difficult for Christians in districts where the Taliban have been in power. When the Taliban take control of a village, they demand that all households go to the local mosque to pray five times a day. Those who do not attend must provide good reason for missing a prayer, which can expose Christian converts. In addition, the Christian leader points to the fear they feel for their children: “Many Christians fear the Taliban will take their children, both girls and boys, like in Nigeria and Syria. he girls will be forced to marry Taliban fighters and the boys will be forced to become soldiers. Both will be sent to madrassas to be brainwashed.”
Afghanistan’s 200 Catholics will be left without their only place of worship
The day before yesterday, the Catholic News Agency noted that in 2018 there were an estimated 200 Catholics in Afghanistan. Until now they only had one church, located in the Italian Embassy in Kabul and dependent on the Mission sui iuris established by Pope St John Paul II in 2002. After the evacuation of the embassies of Western countries, this Catholic minority will be left without your only place of worship. On the other hand, in 2004 the Missionaries of Charity arrived in the country to offer humanitarian aid. There is also a mission of the Society of Jesus headed by an Indian priest, Father Jerome Sequeira. Vatican News reported yesterday that there are currently four Missionaries of Charity and two Jesuit priests trapped in the country, waiting to be evacuated.
Caritas Italiana may have to suspend its activity in that country
Caritas Italiana issued the alert on Afghanistan on Sunday. The Catholic NGO has been working in that country since the 1990s: “In the early 2000s, Caritas Italiana supported a large program of emergency aid, rehabilitation and development, the construction of four schools in the Ghor valley, the return 483 refugee families to the Panshir Valley with the construction of 100 traditional houses for the poorest families. and assistance to disabled people. Between June 2004 and December 2007, two Italian Caritas operators took turns in the country with the aim of coordinating and facilitating local activities. Currently, the main focus is on the most vulnerable children. But the instability of the situation will lead to the suspension of all activities, while fears grow for the possibility of maintaining a presence also for the future, as well as for the safety of the few Afghans of Christian denomination.“
Afghanistan is the second country in the world where Christians are persecuted the most
Last January, the Christian NGO Open Doors warned that Afghanistan was already the second country in the world where Christians suffer the most persecution, being surpassed only by the brutal communist dictatorship of North Korea. In the report on Afghanistan published on its website, Open Doors points out: “It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed. If a Christian’s family discovers they have converted, their family, clan or tribe has to save its “honor” by disowning the believer, or even killing them. Christians from a Muslim background can also be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, because leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity.“
Open Doors explains this high degree of persecution in the fact that the terrorists of the Islamic State and the Taliban “continue to have a strong, violent presence in Afghanistan, with the Taliban controlling large regions.” It also quotes these words from an Afghan Christian: “How we survive daily only God knows. He knows because He has been kind to dwell with us. But we are tired of all the death around us.” The question we should ask ourselves now is the following: what are democratic countries going to do to defend this community and, if necessary, evacuate it from the country?
Photo: Associated Press. Muslims burning a cross in the Panjwai district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province in 2012.
Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:
The mail subscription service to Counting Stars will allow you to receive in your mailbox a daily email with the new posts published in this blog. It is a free service. Once you have entered your email in this box and press the "Click to subscribe" black button, you will receive a confirmation email in your mailbox to activate your subscription. If at any time you want to unsubscribe, you only just have to click the link that you will find at the bottom of each newsletter.