Fear and Uncertainty Dominate Thoughts of Afghanistan’s Christians Living Under Taliban Rule
By William Stark
08/17/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On Sunday, August 15, Taliban fighters captured Kabul, effectively asserting complete control over Afghanistan. For the country’s secretive underground church, the return to Taliban rule has filled many with fear and uncertainty.
“We are telling people to stay in their houses because going out now is too dangerous,” a Christian leader in Afghanistan, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, told International Christian Concern (ICC). 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.
Afghanistan’s Christian community is almost exclusively comprised 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.
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.
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.
“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.’”
Following the Taliban’s victory, there have been no targeted killings of Christians reported in Afghanistan. However, Christian leaders fear that it is only a matter of time before killings are reported.
“It will be done mafia style,” the Christian leader explained. “The Taliban will never take responsibility for the killings.”
According to this Christian leader, life under Taliban rule is already very difficult for Christians in districts where the Taliban has held power. When the Taliban takes control of a village, they reportedly require all households to go to the local mosque to pray five times a day. Those who do not attend must provide a good reason for missing a prayer, potentially outing any Christian converts.
In some northern parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban is already enforcing its strict interpretation of Sharia law. Men are required to grow beards, women cannot leave home without a male escort, and life is becoming more dangerous.
In addition to death threats, many Christian families fear for the safety of their children.
“Many Christians fear the Taliban will take their children, both girls and boys, like in Nigeria and Syria,” the Christian leader explained. “The 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.”
To evidence this concern, the Christian leader shared a written declaration by the Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, another name of the Taliban, declaring their intention to marry girls and young widows to Taliban fighters. The declaration said:
“In order to eradicate the ignorance of irreligion and also social problems of the youth in these provinces in general, the officials of the Islamic Emirate are ordering all the people of these provinces, especially tribal elders, village khans and mullahs, mosques to list young girls. They are over 15 years old, and widows should be handed over to the Mojahedin Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate under the age of 45. God willing, these sisters will come to the religious marriage of the Mujahideen in order to learn pure Islamic lessons and accept Islam.”
With all civilian flights out of Afghanistan cancelled indefinitely and the borders controlled by the Taliban, many Christians in Afghanistan find themselves stuck in a dangerous situation. Uncertainty and fear of discovery dominate the thoughts of many Afghan Christians.
Prior to the Taliban retaking the country, Open Doors ranked Afghanistan second on its World Watch List. The only country to outrank Afghanistan in Christian persecution is North Korea. According to Open Doors, persecution in Afghanistan “is only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.”
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