There are more than 41 million people in Afghanistan, most of whom are Muslim. Given that many Christians have been forced deeper underground and must keep their faith hidden, it’s difficult to get an exact idea of how many believers live in the country, but it is estimated to be in the thousands.
When the Taliban came to power in August 2021, they did so with pledges to recognise more freedoms than in the past. But that hasn't happened: if an Afghan's Christian faith is discovered, it can be a death sentence, or they can be detained and tortured into giving information about fellow believers. The surrounding society and family structure has no space for religious freedom, and the government upholds this rigid stance. This means Christians – almost all of whom are converts from Islam – must keep their faith secret, or they may simply disappear.
Many Christians left the country in 2021. Others chose to stay, or were unable to leave. Many keep their faith secret, forced to live, work and identify as Muslims. Many of those who fled are living in poor conditions in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. This year, Pakistan's decision to deport up to 1.7 million unregistered Afghan refugees may have far-reaching consequences for Afghanistan, even if not all of the refugees will actually leave.
Even before the Taliban takeover in 2021, women in Afghanistan lived as second-class citizens. Under Taliban rule, women face an even more uncertain future. School attendance for girls is restricted, and women are currently barred from the workplace, increasingly limited to their homes. Being a woman can be dangerous in Afghanistan; being a Christian can be deadly. When the two are combined, it creates an incredibly difficult situation.
“Some people grew suspicious of my husband’s activities. Early one morning, he was attacked and killed near our home.” YASAMAN, AN AFGHAN CHRISTIAN STILL LIVING IN THE COUNTRY
Yasaman* grew up a Muslim, like every Afghan person is expected to. She married 11 years ago, and she and her husband had five children – then, two-and-a-half years ago, he chose to follow Jesus. “He always tried to share his faith with me, but I was initially uninterested and often argued with him,” Yasaman remembers. “Our relationship grew strained, and I even contemplated divorce, taking our children to my father’s house.” While women would usually have few rights in Afghanistan, her husband’s conversion meant he had even fewer.
That changed when Yasaman had a dream about reading the Bible. “This dream deeply affected me, prompting me to ask my husband for a Bible - after reading it, I experienced a profound change within me, feeling a new energy and embracing faith.”
The couple kept their faith secret from almost everyone, but somehow some people worked it out – and they wanted to do Christians harm. “Our home was located near a mosque, and some people grew suspicious of my husband’s [Christian] activities,” says Yasaman. “Early one morning, as he went to buy bread, two people followed him. He was attacked and killed near our home. I was devastated and felt alone and weak.”
Even before the Taliban takeover, converting from Islam to Christianity was extremely dangerous in Afghanistan, and sharing the gospel is even more so. But Yasaman is determined. “A fellow believer and his family came to visit, providing spiritual support and encouraging me to continue my husband’s work in God’s path,” she says. “I found solace in their support, and my faith grew stronger. I started sharing the gospel with others.
*Name changed for security reasons
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through partners to strengthen Christians from Afghanistan. We cannot provide details about how we support them, as the situation is too dangerous. But we can say that our brothers and sisters desperately need our prayers.
Father God, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. They risk so much to follow You, and so much of their faith has to be hidden. Protect them from harm and give them a sense of belonging. We pray for those who feel called to remain in Afghanistan, that You would make a way for them to be salt and light in their environments and that You would keep them safe. We pray for those who have fled. Please bring them Your strength and peace. Things seem so hopeless in Afghanistan, Father, but we know You are a God who can bring hope. We trust You. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.