Christians in Afghanistan fear Taliban persecution

Photo provided by the U.S. Central Command Department of Public Affairs shows a Marine leading the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, August 20, 2021. Illustrative image. Photo: cap. Davis Harris / US Central Agency C / EFE

After the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, many wondered what would happen to the country’s minority groups, who must revert to Sharia, Islamic law, in a very strict way.

Christians are one of the smallest groups in the country. It is not known for sure how many Christians there are, but estimates indicate between 3,000 and 12,000 believers, for a total of around 38 million people.

Even before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, life for Christians was not easy. In the country’s legal system, apostasy (i.e. the exchange of Islam for another religion) was already punishable by the death penalty, according to the report by ACN International, an NGO that describes the state of religious freedom in the world.

“Christianity is considered a Western religion and foreign to Afghanistan. Public opinion regarding the proselytizing of Christians towards Muslims is openly hostile, ”indicates the report produced by the NGO in 2021.

The text concludes that despite a constitutional clause guaranteeing religious tolerance, those who openly practice their Christian faith or convert from Islam to Christianity are in danger.

The situation worsens with the Taliban

Although Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid said during his first appearance that he would grant a general amnesty to the country so that the transition to power can be made more easily, in practice, reports of persecution of people who have collaborated with the previous regime began to appear.

The BBC had access to a document from the Norwegian Center for Global Analysis RHIPTO, an organization that provides intelligence to the UN, stating that “there are a large number of individuals targeted by the Taliban and the threat is clear “.

Christian Nellemann, who heads the group behind the report, said the text describes that “unless they surrender, the Taliban will arrest and pursue, interrogate and punish family members on behalf of these people. “.

At least one death has been confirmed in these terms, when a relative of a journalist from the German news network Deutsche Welle was murdered by members of the Islamic extremist group who were looking for him house to house.

Similar fears have spread throughout the small Christian community in Afghanistan.

Leaks and attempts to help

A Christian leader in Afghanistan, whose name has not been released for his own safety, told US NGO International Christian Concern (ICC) that Christians are urged to stay at home due to the risk of running into Taliban patrols.

“Some famous Christians are already receiving threatening phone calls,” the Christian leader told ICC: “In these calls, strangers say, ‘We are coming after you.

Will Stark, the ICC’s regional director for South Asia, told the Washington Times that people who are not publicly known to be Christians are advised to change their address or remain in hiding for a period of time.

“People with Bibles or Christian literature have been ordered to bury them, get rid of them, and get rid of them. Because if you are found out with it, you fear it will lead to death. “, added Stark.

There are also concerns that access to government documents by the Taliban may contribute to the persecution of minority groups.

Father Jérôme Sequeira, 52, president of the Jesuit Refugee Service, sent a message to his colleagues saying he was unable to access Kabul airport as Taliban militants are believed to be controlling key positions nearby and shoot in the air to scare people. The priest’s family were unwilling to give The Times of India much information about his situation or his whereabouts.

Christian figures in the United States rush to rescue Afghan Christians. Broadcaster Glenn Beck recently claimed it was able to raise $ 20 million to help “persecuted Christians”.

The money was deposited into the account of Nazarene Fund, an NGO created by the presenter which aims, according to its own website, “to free captives, slaves and to rescue, rebuild and restore the lives of Christians and other minorities. religious and ethnic persecuted. where and when they need it ”.

Although no killings of Christians by the Taliban have been reported so far, concern for their lives in Afghanistan is real.

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