Release International is calling for prayer for Afghan Christians, following the rapid takeover of their country by the Taliban. It is also working to lobby for safe passage for Christian refugees whose lives could be at risk.
UK-based Release International serves persecuted Christians around the world. Says CEO Paul Robinson: ‘God’s work is not over in Afghanistan. We intend to continue working with the underground church in that country. The number of Christians fleeing Afghanistan, though heart-wrenching, is relatively small.’
The news from Afghan Christians on the ground is mixed, as the country emerges into its new normality. Some describe a return to order, others a growing fear.
‘Many callers are talking about life going on almost as normal,’ says Paul Robinson, ‘while others are extremely troubled by the recent takeover and fearful for their lives as followers of Christ, wondering if someone will denounce them. They are looking for ways out of the country.’
Since the Taliban takeover, one Release International contact has been in regular touch with Afghans, who are still able to view their Christian media content. They warn: ‘The situation is dire. We’ve seen the Taliban in the past and we know what they do.’
A Christian father called to leave a desperate message: ‘I came to Christ a year ago,’ he said. ‘The Kabul situation is dreadful. The lives of my eight-year-old daughter and my own are in danger.’
Another 16-year-old girl sent this message: ‘People are terrified. Everyone is afraid and scared of the Taliban. I’m crying out to God right now. Someone please help us.’
Release partners confirm the Taliban have been conducting house searches for named individuals and that some have escaped and are in hiding. They are also able to confirm that a letter has been circulated in the Dari language, requiring girls over 15 and widows under 45 to register at local cultural centres. While the existence of that instruction has been denied by the Taliban, Release contacts confirm the letter has been distributed in some districts.
UK offers refuge
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that priority will be given to Afghan women, children and religious minorities, to come to the UK under a resettlement scheme.
‘Release International welcomes this commitment to religious minorities, who are clearly at risk in Afghanistan,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘Through our partners, we are lobbying hard to secure a place of refuge.’
According to the Church Times growing numbers of British Christians are coming forward to offer support, including accommodation, for Afghan refugees.
In a joint letter to The Guardian newspaper, Catholic and Anglican archbishops called on governments to take more responsibility for meeting the needs of the most vulnerable who have to leave Afghanistan.
They said: ‘We have seen in our parishes the warm responses to refugees from Afghanistan and other parts of the world. As a nation, we should not be led by quota, but by the need and pain before us. We must put the most vulnerable people at the heart of our thinking and actions.’
Call to prayer
For the moment, Release International believes the most crucial support Christians can offer is prayer.
‘Get Christian friends together and hold prayer meetings for these believers,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘Pray that our Afghan brothers and sisters will experience the peace of Jesus with them, guiding them and offering them reassurance.
‘Pray that the Holy Spirit will bring scripture and worship songs to their minds. Pray for our partners as they minister to Afghans everyday via online, radio and phone connections. And pray that our efforts to secure safe refuge for those who are fleeing will meet with success.’
British MPs have warned of the consequences for Afghan Christians of the Taliban takeover. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief looks back to the previous period of Taliban rule over Afghanistan in the late 1990s. ‘Those suspected of being Christians were forced to renounce Christianity and return to Islam,’ say the parliamentarians.
The APPG fear the Taliban may resume religious cleansing of entire areas of non-Muslims, as attempted by Islamic State fighters in Iraq.
Release International and the APPG are also concerned about the impact on neighbouring Pakistan of the Taliban’s meteoric return to power in Afghanistan.
You can read the full article by the APPG here
‘Release International is responding to requests our from partners in Afghanistan,’ says Paul Robinson. ‘And in all of this turmoil, we must also remember the Christians in other countries who are having to flee for their lives. These include in central Nigeria, the Sahel region especially in Burkina Faso, where violent jihadists are extending their field of operations, and in the Middle East.’
If you would like to contribute to Release International’s work showing love and support for Christians in flight around the world, please do so via our Charity Aid Foundation fundraising page: