Afghanistan : Christians threatened as Karzai woos Taliban
The government of Afghanistan suspended two church-based aid organisations — US-based Church World Service (CWS) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) — on 31 May over allegations of proselytising. Both groups deny the charge, insisting they had adhered to the Islamic State’s strict protocols. Leaving Islam (apostasy) is a capital offence under Afghan law and it is illegal to proselytise. The allegations emerged on 30 May via a privately-run Afghan television station, Noorin TV. The station broadcast video footage reportedly showing Afghans being baptised and participating with Westerners in Christian prayer meetings being held in alleged ‘missionary safe houses’ in western Kabul. Whilst CWS and NCA were specifically named, Noorin TV unashamedly confesses it has NO evidence they were involved. The producer maintains that the report merely raised ‘suspicions’ about the two groups. He had simply selected their names out of the telephone directory because they contained the word ‘church’.
In Kabul, angry protesters have demanded the expulsion of foreigners who try to convert Muslims. In parliament Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a deputy of the lower house, called for Muslim converts to Christianity to be executed: ‘Those Afghans who appeared in this video film should be executed in public; the house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them.’ Qazi Nazir Ahmad, a lawmaker from the western province of Herat, affirmed that killing an apostate is ‘not a crime’. Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai is reportedly taking a personal interest in the case and has ordered an investigation, but not because he is keen to defend religious liberty for he no longer needs to do this to maintain Western favour. According to Waheed Omar, the President’s spokesman, Karzai has instructed his interior minister and the head of the country’s spy agency ‘to take immediate and serious action to prevent this phenomenon’. A European diplomat told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he suspected there might be a ‘hidden political agenda’ behind the Noorin TV broadcast, ‘at a time when stirring up anti-foreign sentiment is quite fashionable in Kabul’.
This drama is unfolding parallel to President Karzai’s desperate efforts to entice the Taliban into a peace agreement. However, the Taliban are not interested because they are ascendant and even now they can terrorise Kabul at will. They are just biding their time until the US and allied forces depart. Whether they then decide to take over Kabul or not, they will certainly dictate their terms. So Karzai is offering appeasements and inducements in the hope that the Taliban will talk ‘peace’, i.e. to ensure his survival, albeit as a puppet or facade. As part of the British-authored, US-approved Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, Taliban who denounce violence and lay down their weapons will receive money and amnesty. Billions of dollars will thus be channelled to supposedly de-radicalised Taliban. Nations desperate for ‘peace’ are lining up to contribute to the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund. Australia for instance has pledged $25 million. However, it is easy to imagine how this scheme could be massively rorted to produce the exact opposite of what was intended.
In such an environment of political and existential desperation, the lives of the Afghan believers who have been filmed being baptised or praying to the Lord are imminently imperilled. The Islamic masses are against them. The Islamic State’s constitution is against them. Their own government — including their Western-backed president — is against them. However, the God of their salvation, the Almighty eternal God Jehovah, is for them and with them.
(An expanded analysis with links to articles and reports is available on Religious Liberty Monitoring, http://elizabethkendal.blogspot.com )
WE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL:
- be a refuge, strength, help and fortress to all Afghanistan’s seriously threatened and besieged Christians. (Psalm 46)
- gift and empower all Afghanistan’s young believers with radical faith that expresses itself in humble prayer and fearless peace. ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ (Psalm 46:10 ESV)
- in mercy (Ephesians 2:4) and pity (Jonah 4:11) awaken the consciences of many Afghans, opening their eyes and their hearts to receive the true and liberating gospel (Luke 4:18,19; Acts 16:14).
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
AFGHANI CHRISTIANS THREATENED AS TALIBAN ARE WOOED
President Hamid Karzai and his Western backers desperately want peace with the Taliban. The British-authored, US-approved Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program offers money and amnesty to Taliban militants who denounce violence and lay down their weapons. However, the Taliban, sensing victory, reject peace and are merely awaiting the US withdrawal. (Nevertheless they might not pass up an opportunity to make some money in the meantime!) In this climate, Afghan TV has shown Afghans being baptised and praying with Christians in Kabul. The angry masses want supposedly proselytising foreigners deported. MPs are calling for these Afghani apostates to be publicly executed. Karzai has ordered the interior ministry and spy agency to ‘prevent’ conversions. Still, God is in the midst of his people (Psalm 46). Please pray for the Church in Afghanistan.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. This prayer bulletin was initially written for the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission http://www.ea.org.au/ReligiousLiberty/PrayerPostings.aspx. Elizabeth Kendal’s Religous Liberty Monitoring blog can be found at http://elizabethkendal.blogspot.com