Explainer: What the Taliban Takeover Means for Afghan Believers
International | August 26, 2021
Open Doors, a ministry that supports persecuted Christians around the world, considers Afghanistan to be only slightly less hostile to Christianity than North Korea. Now, following the Taliban takeover, the Christian community in Afghanistan (estimated to be comprised of a few thousand believers) is under heightened pressure. The last few priests remaining in the country are hoping to flee, and underground Christians are fearing their own deaths.
Even before the Taliban consolidated control over the country, religious freedom was basically non-existent in Afghanistan. As the world’s attention has turned to Afghanistan, we must remember the plight of some of the most vulnerable in Afghan society.
What Is the Recent History of Christianity in Afghanistan?
Christianity has always been a minority religion in Afghanistan, tolerated to varying degrees throughout the country’s history. Following the Taliban’s consolidation of power in 1996, most religious minorities fled the country. Today, hardly any religious minorities remain—the population is 99.7 Muslim.
Under the Taliban’s brutal rule from 1996-2001, a strict form of Sharia law was imposed, and brutally so. Anyone caught violating the law would be publicly beaten, stoned to death, or executed.
The Taliban infamously carried out public executions of men and women in Kabul’s soccer stadium, Ghazi Stadium. The events that took place there traumatized a generation, with some thinking that the souls of innocent victims roam the area at night.
Even after the Taliban was ousted in 2001 and a coalition-backed government was instituted, the government was known to deal swiftly with Afghans who converted from Islam to Christianity. These new believers would be asked to recant. If they refused, they would be expelled from the country, often to India. In 2006, Abdul Rahman was tried in court for converting to Christianity 16 years prior, facing the death penalty.
The only legal church in the country is a Roman Catholic mission located within the Italian Embassy. Yet, even this church was intended to serve only Catholic foreigners temporarily staying in Afghanistan rather than to serve an Afghan Catholic community…. (Excerpts from FRC Blog)