Afghanistan is an ethnically diverse county located in the heart of central Asia bordering Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and China. Its nation’s capital is Kabul, and as of 2021, has a population of over 39 million people. It is the birthplace of Zoroastrianism and has deep roots of Hinduism and Buddhism before Islam became the religion of the land. Afghanistan’s history has been afflicted by a long series of foreign invasions and withdrawals from different empires throughout time.
The unification of this nation also has been a source of challenge because of fierce tribal independence and political fractions. Religious strife in the nation is nothing new as well. In the early part of the 20th century, progressive ideas led to a clash between liberal and conservative Muslims. In the 1920’s, Afghanistan had experienced a new wave of social change through reforms that had opened a window for women and girls to receive an education and gain social freedom. There were of course push backs against these reforms, but nevertheless, the reforms continued to provide liberty to many women and girls.
Near the end of the twentieth century, Afghanistan unfortunately was engulfed with a civil war, a damaged infrastructure, and religious fractions leading to the ruling of a theocratic regime known as the Taliban. From 1996-2001, this Islamic fundamentalist group from Pakistan implemented a harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law, which resulted in the brutal treatment of Afghan women and other citizens. During their rule, the Taliban also housed and supported infamous terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda, within their territory. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, a U.S. led campaign occurred, driving out the Taliban and temporarily putting an end to their harsh rule in December 2001. In August 2021, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. announce their withdrawal from Afghanistan and a deadline was set for their departure. Hearing about the deadline, many Afghans’ fearing for their lives rush to the airport hoping to flee from the Taliban and receive asylum from the U.S. government.
According to The Gospel Coalition, Afghanistan is the second fastest growing church in the world, thanks to the many Iranians who are reaching Afghans with the Gospel. This is great news considering the heavy persecution Christians are facing in the region right now. According to Prayercast, there are roughly 48,000 mosque and zero church buildings; and it is labeled as one of the world’s most persecuted nations. Converting from Islam to Christianity in Afghanistan can result in death, and believers gather and worship in secret.
Since the U.S. withdrawal, Christians are fleeing to the mountains and ravines to hide from the Taliban with little food and shelter. It has been reported from the rural villages, teens girls or younger are being captured by the Taliban and given to the fighters as a prize possession. Young men and families are being executed by the Taliban and the women raped as well. Despite the danger, some believers on ground are choosing to stay in Afghanistan to share the gospel, willing to count the cost no matter what.