Pray for the persecuted!
Brief History of Afghanistan
Muslim dominance of the region we now call Afghanistan goes back to the 7th century, when Arab invaders began conquering the territory. Islam quickly took root and has been the region’s one constant throughout its turbulent history. Initially various Muslim tribal chiefs vied for control of the region. This was the situation that Genghis Khan found when he conquered the land in the 13th century. But even this great Mongol warrior could not uproot the Islamic civilization of the land and within two generations the conqueror’s heirs had become Muslims. The Mongol conquest gave some stability to the area, although by the 16th century the land was divided between various competing warlords, tribes and principalities.
The modern state of Afghanistan was established in 1747 when Ahmed Shah Durrani, the founder of the Durrani Empire, succeeded in establishing rule over the entire region. In the 19th century the nation found itself sandwiched between the expanding British and Russian empires. With its strategic location in central Asia, the land was sought by both powers. However, after various wars for independence, border agreements were reached with Russia (1885 and 1895), British India (1893), and Persia (1905) which solidified the nation’s present boundaries. The Anglo-Russian agreement of 1907 further guaranteed the independence of Afghanistan under British influence in foreign affairs. It was not until 1919 that Afghanistan gained full control of her foreign relations. However, the nation continued to be a theatre of war and power struggles throughout the 20th and into 21st century.
In early 1992 militant Muslims guerrillas gained control of Afghanistan. They could not agree with each other, however, and the nation became divided into several independent zones. The region did not begin to be united again until late 1994, when a militia of Islamic fundamentalist students, known as the Taliban, started to take over. In early 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul and declared themselves the legitimate government, although they still only controlled two thirds of the nation. By 2000, the Taliban had gained control of about 90% of the country while the remaining portion in the North was controlled by other opposition groups.
In 2001, the US launched their invasion because the Taliban had refused to surrender the terrorist bin Laden. At this time the United States began assisting the various resistance groups, known collectively as ‘the Northern Alliance.’ Although the US eventually gained control of the region, the Taliban simply went into hiding in rural areas, where they remain a thorn in the nation’s flesh to this day. The rest of the nation reverted to the control of the regional warlords who had held power prior to the rise of the Taliban.
Towards the end of 2002 it appeared that the country might achieve some stability under the government of Muhammad Zahir Shah. However, the Taliban guerrillas continued fighting, prompting the U.S. coalition to launch another campaign against Taliban in May, 2006. However, US forces failed to dislodge the Taliban presence in the South. As a result, last year, a Taliban led shadow government began to form illegally to compete against the American-backed democratic government and their president Hamid Karzai.
Challenges Facing the Church
Very few non-Muslims exist among the 31 million population and those who do must exercise their faith in conditions of strictest secrecy. According to the State Department’s “International Religious Freedom Report 2009,” there are unconfirmed reports of the existence of from 500 to as many as 8,000 Afghan Christians.
Even before the Taliban came to power, Afghanistan was one of the least-reached countries in the world. After the Taliban took control, most of the Christians emigrated to Pakistan and other countries.
Even though the Taliban are no longer in power, conditions are still hostile to all faiths other than Islam. Eager to let Afghanistan enjoy a measure of self-rule, the American forces allowed the nation to adopt a new constitution in 2004 which stipulates that “no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.” This, together with the return of Taliban influence in many provinces, has made conditions extremely harsh for Christians.
Afghan Christians who don’t hide their convictions frequently receive threats of violence against themselves and their families. In some cases, new believers are harmed while other Christians are kidnapped. Non-governmental and Christian aid workers are also threatened if they are discovered to be Christians.
Every month, an average of one Christian is murdered, and one is arrested, (mostly on blasphemy charges). Kidnapping, physical harassment or attack on the property of Christians is more common and occurs almost every week.
Persecuted But Not Forsaken
Despite the incredible level of persecution, the Lord has seen fit to raise up a small indigenous house church movement. Much prayer is required for the fledging church, which is under incredible strain. Afghan Christian have not lost hope that one day the gospel will triumph where Genghis Khan could not in uprooting Islamic civilization from this hostile land.
Source: Open Doors USA
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