The United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, which played out to a worldwide audience in late August, has left significant geopolitical challenges in its wake, and observers say the country’s small Christian population is at risk of annihilation.
Polls showed that although most Americans supported the withdrawal of troops, most disapproved of the way the mission was carried out. And although the massive airlift from Hamid Karzai International Airport evacuated more than 120,000 people—including Afghans, citizens of the U.S., Canada and other countries—thousands more who wished to flee were unable to make it out of the country. Many reportedly went into hiding.
The fallout will have consequences far beyond Afghanistan, observers say.
“The North Koreans are watching, the Chinese are watching, the Iranians are watching, Hezbollah is watching, Hamas, Boko Haram—all the people who do incredibly savage things and cruelty to other people—and of course, Putin,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-New Jersey), speaking on “CBS Eye on the World with John Batchelor.” Smith, who serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, added: “The future … has been made, I would say, not just demonstrably worse [but] exponentially worse by this gross mishandling of the exit from Afghanistan.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Afghanistan now becomes, if not the, certainly one of the, biggest magnets for even more terrorism activity. So the very reason we went over there—to mitigate terrorist attacks against the U.S.—is now front and center, even stronger.”
As the Taliban asserted control over the nation in mid-August, its leaders promised to respect the rights of women and religious minorities “in accordance with Sharia.” But given the repressive nature of the Islamic law known as Sharia, westerners viewed those promises with skepticism, especially in light of Taliban atrocities when it controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s. And even before the Taliban retook control in August, the persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked Afghanistan as the world’s second-most-difficult place to be a Christian, trailing only North Korea.
“This is a life-or-death situation for Christians and other religious minorities, for Afghans who worked with or for America, and for Americans who are left in Afghanistan,” Franklin Graham said on Facebook as he called for a day of prayer for the people of Afghanistan on Aug. 22. “The Islamic extremists who have taken Afghanistan by force have a history of brutality, including beheadings and public executions. We know what they are capable of.”
Samaritan’s Purse supported partners in the region in evacuating more than 700 people by air in late August, as well as 80 missionary families via land routes. The organization also flew relief and medical supplies to the region.
Open Doors reported that although some Afghan Christians fled the country, others decided to stay and remain secret believers. Those who remain face a grim future.
“The entire Christian community is in danger of wholesale slaughter,” wrote Nina Shea, senior fellow and director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, in The Epoch Times. Citing information from Matias Perttula of International Christian Concern, Shea said Christians in Afghanistan numbered between 10,000 and 12,000, most of whom were converts from Islam. She added: “Recent reports from Christians on Twitter indicate that they feel ‘thrown to the wolves,’ and some have received telephoned death threats: ‘We know who you are, and we’re coming for you.’”
An Afghan underground church leader identified as Pastor X provided a statement to the mission organization Frontier Alliance International that read in part: “Our people are on the move, running from house to house and city to city to avoid getting caught. Unfortunately, many Afghans are calling out the location of people in hiding to gain favor with the Taliban. The situation is dire for our people as they are witnessing women and girls being taken from their homes as prizes for the Taliban and being raped.
“ISIS killers are now joining the ranks of the Taliban,” he added, “ignoring their differences until all infidels are caught, tortured and killed. They have names of people who have converted to Christianity and are aggressively searching them out. These Christians are not afraid to die but want their children to live and live free.”
But in spite of all this, the pastor said, “the underground church continues to thrive, even though the problems are dire and the outcome seems grim. We carry the unrivaled hope of the Gospel that continues to prove what our enemies intend for evil will always work for our good and God’s glory. Where governments, politics and military efforts have failed, the Kingdom of God will flourish and the Gospel will advance. God does His greatest work in our darkest hour.”
Pray for Afghanistan
- Pray that many Afghan citizens—including the Taliban—will see the truth and beauty of Jesus Christ and will come to Him in saving faith.
- Pray that God will protect Christians in Afghanistan as they seek to follow Him and yet avoid capture and torture at the hands of the Taliban.
- Pray that believers will be able to find fellowship to help each other grow spiritually.
Above: Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul after the Taliban takeover. In the aftermath, many Christians, women and critics of the Taliban were forced into hiding.
Photo: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul