It’s very hard to know precisely how many Christians there are in Afghanistan, because they must keep their faith completely secret – but only a small number from a population of about 39 million.
How are Christians persecuted in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is number one on the Open Doors World Watch List for the first time – persecution has increased since the Taliban took control in August 2021. Even before this year, it was impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire and violent consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed. This was true before the Taliban takeover of the country: the situation has become even more dangerous for believers this year. The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts do not have any option but to obey them.
If a Christian's new faith is discovered, their family, clan or tribe has to save its ‘honour’ by disowning the believer, or even killing them. This is widely considered to be a just reaction. Alternatively, since leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity, a Christian who has converted from Islam may be forcibly sectioned in a psychiatric hospital.
If a woman converts from Islam to Christianity and her family do not, she is likely to face house arrest, sexual abuse and rape, violence, forced marriage to a Muslim or even an 'honour' killing. There is very little chance of legal justice for any woman, and women in Afghanistan have very little social or financial autonomy. Since the Taliban takeover in 2021 position of women has become even more dangerous, and any progress that has been made in women's freedoms has been swiftly undone.
“The Taliban are killing our souls and spirits.” Sharifullah, craftsman and secret believer
What’s life like for Christians in Afghanistan?
“Everything beautiful is considered ‘infidel’,” says Sharifullah*. He is a traditional craftsman in Afghanistan whose business came to a standstill when the Taliban invaded. “The Taliban want their ideology reflected everywhere, and so all signs of colour, life and hope have been removed. They’ve been replaced with Taliban slogans, which are a far cry from hope.”
Sharifullah is one of the small number of Christians in Afghanistan – and he has decided to stay in the country, despite worsening persecution. Like all Christians who live there, he has to keep his faith secret. But he does shepherd a small group of secret believers whom God has entrusted to his care. For many years, they have reached out to their community with the gospel and their craft intertwined.
Living out their faith behind a veil of secrecy, Sharifullah and his fellow believers knew that the Taliban could return. Despite the dangers, they continued their secret ministry, training women and men how to make beautiful and colourful crafts in a bid to share the gospel.
“The Taliban are killing our souls and spirits,” says Sharifullah. “They are killing the souls of our children by taking all that is beautiful away from them.”
But Sharifullah is staying strong. “We will never let that hope be silenced,” he adds. “We will make sure the world hears the gospel through every breath we take. And we know you will help us by living the gospel, using your freedom and sharing Jesus. Please continue to stand with us.”
*Name changed for security reasons
Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Afghanistan?
It was already almost impossible to be a Christian in Afghanistan – and somehow it got even worse. Many Afghans fled the country after the Taliban took over, and there was wide expectation that freedoms in the country would be swiftly curtailed. For Christians, though, there were basically no freedoms to lose: Afghanistan had been number two on the Open Doors World Watch List for several years, and Christian persecution remains extreme in all spheres of public and private life. The risk of discovery has now further increased, since the Taliban now controls every aspect of government. This extends to owning documentation – including paperwork from international troops – that may help identify Christians.
How can I help Christians in Afghanistan?
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 raises prayer for persecuted believers in Afghanistan, and provides practical support to Afghan Christians forced to flee to neighbouring countries.
Lord God, we know that You weep when You see Your children weeping. We know that You care more than we can express for the nation of Afghanistan. Please, Lord, work miracles in this country. Protect Your children and all others who face terrible human rights abuses in Afghanistan. May this nation turn from one of despair and cruelty to one that resounds with praises of Your name. Amen.