On the evening that Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban, somewhere in the city a Christian couple welcomed the birth of a baby girl.
It’s hard to imagine a more difficult world for her to enter. The country is in turmoil, Christians and other religious minorities live in fear and women, in particular, are extremely vulnerable.
“Sources on the ground confirm that the Taliban are going door-to-door to weed out ‘unwanted elements,’” says Jan Vermeer, Communications Director for Open Doors Asia. “That includes everybody who collaborated with the West and Christians. Anybody who is exposed as a Christian faces severe punishment: kidnapping, torture or even execution.
“Everybody is afraid; however, each responds differently. Some try to escape the country, while others decide to stay where they are and remain secret believers. Others want to escape the country but can’t. Others are unsure what to do.”
The last time the Taliban was in power, women were banned from the workplace and girls from schools, besides a host of other restrictions. Many women fear for their future, and that of their daughters.
But this couple have hope – the sort of hope that can only come from following the living God. A local source told Open Doors that the parents see the birth of their daughter as a sign that God has not given up – either on them or their country.
“The birth of this baby in a Christian home reminds us that God can bring life in the midst of the deepest darkness – that He can bring hope,” says Dave Landrum, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs at Open Doors.
Even before the Taliban took over the country, life was very difficult for Christians and other religious minorities in Afghanistan. For years, the country has been number two on the Open Doors World Watch List – behind only North Korea in terms of the extreme level of persecution that believers face. It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan, and it’s particularly difficult for Christians from a Muslim background. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed.
If a Christian’s family discovers they have converted, their family, clan or tribe has to save its ‘honour’ by disowning the believer, or even killing them. Christians from a Muslim background can also be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital, because leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity. Women are particularly vulnerable, as they are considered to have a lower status in Afghan society.
One of the most powerful responses we can make is to keep praying fervently for Afghanistan – for the small number of Christians there, for Afghan women and for all those who are facing a difficult and uncertain future. And for the parents and little girl who have just formed their family in the midst of this crisis.
“My prayer is that God will protect this family, and despite the challenges cause them to witness to Jesus, the hope of Afghanistan,” adds Dave Landrum. “I also hope Christians everywhere will be prompted to speak out and campaign for freedom to return to this deeply troubled land.”
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