Afghanistan’s underground Christian community is in urgent need of our prayers and solidarity as they face life under the imposition of sharia law at the hands of the Taliban regime that denies the existence of Christ followers in the country.
When the war-torn Middle Eastern nation fell to the Taliban last year upon to the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces after twenty years, it already ranked second on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List of the most dangerous places to live as a Christian.
Since the Islamist group has returned to power, Afghanistan has surpassed even North Korea in abject threats posed to Christians living in the country to be ranked first on the persecution watchdog’s list, and the church exists entirely underground.
So much so, in fact, that earlier this year, the Taliban denied that Christians even existed within the country and indeed, both before and after the Taliban takeover international groups could only hazard a guess at the total number of believers living in the country.
Now, the Taliban is set to initiate sharia law punishments in Afghanistan after an empty promise to the global community last year that it would rule more moderately than it did prior to the 2001 US-backed intervention toppled them from power.
Last week, a spokesman for Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada tweeted out the “obligatory” order to Afghan judges to impose sharia punishments for crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, and sedition, the BBC reported.
The exact crimes and subsequent punishments are unclear, but one religious leader in Afghanistan told the BBC that this could include public flogging, stoning, and amputations.
“This is horrifying news for the secret Christian community in Afghanistan,” Open Doors’ Ryan Hamm wrote. “Given that Taliban officials believe there are ‘no Christians’ in Afghanistan, every believer is regarded as an apostate from Islam,” Open Doors noted. “Traditionally, in Shariah law, leaving Islam has carried a potential penalty of death. This is the kind of punishment the Taliban is demanding from Afghanistan’s judges.”
“Even before the Taliban came back to power, Christian converts could be sentenced to death,” he noted, explaining that in 2006, religious leaders demanded the execution of accused apostate Abdul Rahman, who was forced to flee the country and claim asylum in the West.
“Under the new rules, someone charged with apostasy wouldn’t likely find similar results,” Hamm explained. “Instead, horrifying punishments await believers like Rahman.”
We join Open Doors’ call to pray urgently for our brothers and sisters who are living under Taliban rule, for their courage, protection, and encouragement, as well as the hearts of the Taliban to turn to Christ and for those millions suffering under economic insecurity in the country.
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