Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christian converts from Islamic backgrounds. When a video of underground Afghan Christians was broadcast in 2009, over 100 Christians were forced to flee Afghanistan for fear of being executed by the Afghan government or family members. In response to the video, an Afghan member of parliament demanded the executed of all people exposed on the video to be Christians. Many of these refugees have found safety and freedom in India. A number of Afghan believers has set up a refugee church where fleeing Afghan Christians can find a community of believers to help support them in their time of need. Please, remember these persecuted Christians in your prayers.
7/29/2013 India/Afghanistan (Salem News) – In a South Delhi neighborhood, the sound of a man reciting Dari, a Farsi dialect spoken in Afghanistan, over a loudspeaker attached to a modest two-story building rose over the din of vegetable hawkers. The building was a church run by Afghan refugees who had converted to Christianity. The man was a young Afghan priest reading the Bible before a Sunday service in its basement.
Between 200 and 250 Afghan converts from Islam to Christianity who feared persecution from the Afghan authorities and the Taliban have found refuge in Delhi.
“The number of coverts to Christianity increased as the U.S. presence increased after the fall of the Taliban,” said Obaid Jan, 33, the pastor, who led the Bible service. “Most of the Christian converts lived in urban areas, so the threat from the Taliban was minimal,” he added.
But the Christian converts started fleeing Afghanistan around 2005, fearing their identities might become public. Most came to India after video footage of their secret churches found its way to Noorin TV, a Kabul-based television network, in May 2009. Their lives were further endangered in 2010, when an influential member of the lower house of the Afghan parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called for the converts’ execution.
“The Afghans who appeared in this video should be publicly executed,’’ said Mr. Khawasi. “The House should order the attorney general and the N.D.S.’’ – the National Directorate of Security – “to arrest these Afghans and execute them.”
The video showed the faces and the locations of Christian converts. “It put everyone in danger including the rest of our families who were Muslims,” said Pastor Jan, who used to work for a non-governmental organization in Kabul.
What started him on his road to Christianity, he said, was distress over infighting between different Muslim factions in Afghanistan.
“Everybody in Afghanistan claimed to be a true Muslim and kept fighting,” he said. “I couldn’t find a single Muslim in them.”
Then he met some Christian missionaries working in Afghanistan. “The fact that God has given his son to his followers in Christianity is what attracted me towards the religion,” he added.
Pastor Jan left his parents in 2007 after he received a number of threats to his life from Muslim Afghans. His family did not approve of his new religion. “The families of many converts became very hostile when they learned about their conversions,” he added.
When the family of Adib Ahmad, 24, who worked for an N.G.O. in Mazar-i-Sharif, found out about his new faith, he was given two options: return to Islam or leave the house.
“I left Mazar and went to Kabul and waited there for 20 days hoping my family might call me back,” said Mr. Ahmad. “They didn’t.”
Afghanistan recognizes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the freedom to choose one’s religion. The war-torn country has also signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but it adheres to a conservative interpretation of Islamic law.
Over the years, religious minorities facing persecution in Afghanistan have fled Afghanistan for different parts of the world. Abdul Rahman, a Christian convert for 16 years, was charged with apostasy in 2006 for abandoning Islam. Later, under pressure from Western governments, he was released from prison by the Afghan judiciary after it was successfully argued that he was mentally ill. Italy granted him asylum soon after.
The year 2009 saw the highest number of Christians flee Afghanistan. “Around 100 Christians fled to India in 2009,” said Pastor Jan. Some 40 Afghan Christians have come to India so far in 2013.
Most Afghan Christian converts have chosen India because of its proximity and their familiarity with the country.
An evangelical church, the Delhi Bible Fellowship, supported the Afghan Christian community and gave them a building for their church. But, Pastor Jan said, the Fellowship authorities felt unsafe because of their presence. The Afghan converts moved out and established their own church — known as the Afghan Church of New Delhi.