New Senate Bill Addresses Afghanistan Crisis

Senator Portman Introduces Legislation to Address Taliban Takeover

09/29/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that, on September 27, 2021, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act to address issues lingering from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The bill is co-sponsored by 21 other Republicans and commissions the State Department to sanction the Taliban, explore relationships with those aiding the Taliban, and reduce aid to humanitarian efforts only. Most importantly, the bill explores the issues surrounding hostages taken by the Taliban and considers special immigrant visas for Afghan refugees and parolees, which could mean good news for persecuted Christians in Afghanistan.

On August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul in a swift victory over the government forces. On September 7, the group formed an interim government filled with religious hardliners from the Taliban’s oppressive rule in the 1990s. Since then, there have been numerous reports of Christians martyred, women beaten and killed, and young girls kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam.

Last week, Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, a member of the Taliban’s interim government and chief enforcer of the group’s strict interpretation of Sharia law, announced that executions and other brutal punishments would return as a part of the group’s rule in Afghanistan.

No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran,” Turabi said, according to the Associated Press. Turabi added that “cutting off of hands is very necessary for security” because it has a deterrent effect. He also explained that the new government is still studying whether to carry out punishments in public.

Christians are among the Taliban’s main targets because Islam considers Christians to be apostates punishable by execution, torture, or imprisonment. Nearly all Christians in Afghanistan are converts from Islam. According to CBN News, Christianity in Afghanistan was essentially non-existent 20 years ago, when U.S. troops began removing the Taliban. Before the U.S. withdrawal, ICC estimated the Christian population to be as high as 12,000. Currently, the number is uncertain. Christians now face extinction and require immediate help.

ICC recently called on Congress to consider granting Priority 2 (P-2) status to persecuted Christians and other religious minorities. Since the August withdrawal, the U.S. State Department has limited P-2 status to “certain Afghan nationals and their eligible family members,” not including the most vulnerable populations.

Additionally, the country of Afghanistan is facing an economic crisis, making a catastrophic situation worse for those in hiding due to their faith. The UN previously estimated that nearly 18 million Afghans needed basic sustenance and housing, and Reuters reported that the issue has grown worse in the last month.

According to Refugee Council USA, FY21 refugee admissions stands at 7,637, which is a far cry from the Biden administration’s goal of 62,500. With the fiscal year coming to a close, the U.S. should have no issue admitting vetted Christians and religious minorities wanting to leave Afghanistan.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission recently reminded legislators of the many organizations, churches, and volunteers that stand ready to meet the needs of Afghan refugees given asylum. ICC will continue to push for legislation to include persecuted Christians and other minorities within the scope of the P-2 status. We urge readers to contact their representatives and senators in Congress in support of Senator Portman’s bill.

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