It’s one challenge after another for Afghans fleeing their homeland. In neighbouring countries, the obstacles facing refugees include extortionate rent, poor living conditions and unreliable bureaucracy. The need is massive, but your support is ensuring that vital aid is reaching both Christian and Muslim Afghan refugees. We caught up with Brother Ishmael – an Open Doors local partner whose name we’ve changed for security reasons – to explain more…
A camp for Afghan refugees; your support is helping local partners to minister to those forced to flee Afghanistan – now number one on the World Watch List
ISHMAEL: The situation of Afghan refugees in some neighbouring countries is very difficult. Many governments do not provide the necessary social support because they do not officially recognise presence of refugees in their countries.
There is a category of refugees who were given official refugee status. They received their status with the support of an international organisation and, according to international law, they should not work because they have a right to get payments from authorities. However, they tend not to receive such payments.
Every three months, they must go to the immigration service and confirm their refugee status. If a refugee tries to get a job, he or she will lose the status and would have to hide from the authorities and somehow survive, remaining in an unofficial position in the country or face deportation to their homeland, where he or she faces death.
There is another category of refugees who have applied for refugee status. They have a document confirming their expectation for refugee status and have the right to legally stay in the country. But they do not even have refugee rights. To obtain refugee status, they need to apply for documents, which is very expensive.
ISHMAEL: Refugees are forbidden to settle in big cities. Consequently, they are forced to settle in the suburbs where landlords hike up prices for them. For a national citizen, the rent is £40 per month, but for an Afghan refugee it is about £115 per month and they need to pay at least six months in advance – that is more than £650, which is an incredibly huge amount for people in such a difficult life situation.
"We help Christian refugees who have converted from Islam, who have experienced terrible persecution" Ishmael
Many refugees who ran away from their country with all the money they had have rented housing and are living. But now their time in rented housing is running out, and there is no way to earn money. They find themselves in a situation of collapse, with no hope of support to fall back on. In some neighbouring countries, there are no tent camps for internally displaced persons. Renting is the only option.
There are some houses on the outskirts where the government allows official refugees to rent housing at a lower price, but there are very few such houses and living conditions are very poor. Electricity is given only a few hours a day, and there is no centralised heating. The heating is only with electricity, and so it is cold and damp in those houses. There is no hot water.
Most refugees are not official and they are trying to find jobs to pay their bills. They are usually given only the hardest, dirtiest and most low-paid work. They earn about £2 a day, which is very difficult to survive on.
A lot of children and adults need medical care. It is almost impossible to get high-quality medical care in this region if a person is a refugee, and they need to pay for everything, which can be very expensive. There are a lot of children also – from three to five children almost in every family – and schools cannot accept them all. Most children cannot pay, so they are on the streets. Many do not have documents, because they fled before they had time to take them. In general, the situation of refugees is very difficult. And they can't go anywhere, it's too expensive for them.
ISHMAEL: First, we provide food packages, which helps many refugees to survive. Additionally, we distribute clothes, blankets and hygiene items. We also provide medical assistance. For example, one child from a family of Afghan refugees needed urgent medical care, and the hospital refused to accept him because he is not a national citizen. We partnered with the church near him to cover his medical expenses.
Currently, we cover 5,000 Afghan refugees in my area. Assistance is also now being provided in other countries in the region. We help Christian refugees who have converted from Islam, who have experienced terrible persecution and fled because of direct danger to their lives from the Taliban regime, and are the most vulnerable, with no support from anyone except for local Christian believers. We also extend support to Muslim refugees who are able now to hear the gospel. It is our prayer that they would see and feel the love of Christ.
Dear God, remove the many obstacles facing Afghan refugees. Lead them to places of safety, supply and security. Give them favour with officials and governments, and surround them with people of warm hospitality. Pour fresh hope into their hearts and give them a new start. Bring healing where it’s needed. And may the witness of Your people lead others to a knowledge of You. Amen.
When the Taliban seized power of Afghanistan last summer, thousands of people fled in search of safety and a better life. Many have ended up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan, including Christians. Sadly, the places of refuge present their own challenges, but the love of Jesus is reaching these places – helped by your support.
One such place is a village in a country neighbouring Afghanistan. There are house groups for Afghan Christians to get involved in, or have contact with, but, like their own country, this must be in secret.
“The Muslim traditions are very strong in our area and the number of Muslims with radical views is big here,” explains Habib*, a local believer. “It is very dangerous to be a known converted Christian, so we must be very careful in our everyday life and ministry. There is no official church – this is not possible for us. We only have a house church and small home groups of secret believers. This is the only possible kind of church here.”
The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan last year has emboldened some Muslim militants to become more radical, putting local believers at even greater risk.
To compound matters, the area is poor, with insufficient food and clean water. This forces locals to use the dirty water from the river, which leads to many experiencing health problems. There are also precious little opportunities to earn money, meaning living conditions are very poor. Houses are old and not fit to stay in, and there are shortages of food, clothing, heating materials and medicine. The pandemic has exacerbated these difficulties.
For Afghan refugees, the situation perhaps feels eerily similar to the home they left behind. But there is hope.
Last December, Open Doors local partners distributed Bibles, Christian books and DVDs featuring Christian films and cartoons among Afghan refugees. Christmas presents were also handed out to believers and events put on for children. The visit brought much joy to people.
Afghan refugees receive aid
“Thank you for your time with us, for coming despite the long distance and the poor conditions in which you have to stay here,” shared one Christian. “Thank you for the gifts for our children, for the food, firewood and the coal. And thank you for the Christian books and Bibles. The need for Christian materials is huge; we can’t buy such books here, so this is timely.”
“This is a good help for our everyday needs,” shared another believer. “It gives us the feeling of unity with other Christians. We feel that brothers and sisters from other places and countries love, care and support us. We are like a big family.”
It wasn’t just Christians who received help. Your generosity has helped show the love of Jesus to those who don’t follow Him yet.
“Nobody cared for us, nobody came to visit and asked how we are doing here,” shared a Muslim woman. “Our children never got presents for New Year or Christmas or other celebrations, as we have no money for presents, but you brought a lot of joy to our children. For the first time we can feel care and love for us and our children. Thank you so much for this. Now we can see that Christians are loving and sincere.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.