By Alex Pollock

As the world celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday, 8 March, several women around Afghanistan gathered to protest the oppression they face under the Taliban government. Since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, the rights of women and girls have continued to deteriorate. They are no longer allowed to study past grade six or work in the public sector, and they risk arbitrary arrest and detainment if they are in public spaces. The United Nations and human rights watchdogs have reported that part of the reason that the Afghan economy is struggling as much as it is (a 27% retraction since 2021) has a lot to do with the removal of women from the business world. Many women filled positions at NGOs (non-governmental organisations) as well as humanitarian agencies, leaving yet another gap for the wider Afghan population – of which more than half are dependent on humanitarian aid – when forced to leave those posts. The protests on International Women’s Day revolved around these recessions. Marking the holiday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a statement urging the Taliban to reverse their policies and reinstate the privileges that women have lost since their return to power.

The Taliban have also faced backlash from the UN recently for resuming public floggings and executions. Since August 2021, five people have been publicly executed or flogged, including a 12-year-old boy who received 35 lashes for immorality while thousands of people observed from the stands of a sports stadium. The situation for the Afghan people continues to worsen, and the Church is not immune. In fact, in the Muslim-majority country, Christians often face the most danger. Afghanistan is ranked 10th on the Open Doors World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Due to governmental pressure, familial and community persecution, and government oppression, the Afghan Church must operate ‘underground’ to avoid the scrutiny of authorities. However, despite this threat, the Church remains active, though mainly online. Ministries serving the Afghan Church through online platforms report that since January 2023, the interest in Christian content has been growing. Like radio and broadcast channels that produce Christian content in Iran, these platforms focus on the Gospel message and the importance of discipleship. A friend of INcontext from Afghanistan provided the following perspective on the Church in his country:

“In Afghanistan people are really tired of Islam. In the current situation in Afghanistan, people of all nations, religions, and ethnicities are confused, and they are all looking for a better way to be saved. They are running away from oppression and problems that are imposed on them every day. And a large number believe in Christ every day, even though there is a lot of pressure on the Christian believers, and with all the oppression and problems, more and more people are added to the churches…God’s work never stops in my country and the work of churches is progressing rapidly.”

We should celebrate these ‘victories’ when the Gospel advances across Afghanistan. The security situation in the country makes it imperative for ministries to get creative with how they evangelise. Recently, a UK tourism company published a report that listed Afghanistan as one of its most requested destinations. Since over 46% of the UK’s population is Christian, travel could become a creative avenue for believers to see the country, experience the plight of its people, and be encouraged to continue to pray for a spiritual revival in Afghanistan. It has been seen that persecution can speed up the spread of the Gospel in some countries, and this can continue to be a prayer for the Afghan Church and its people. May they be strengthened by the intercession of their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world as they continue to hold steady to the hope and security they have in Christ.

Please join us in praying for the following:

  • For believers in Afghanistan to persevere amidst the persecution and to continue being salt & light in their communities
  • For the hearts of the Taliban leaders to turn toward Christ
  • For the humanitarian aid to be fully funded and delivered to those who need it most, including vulnerable women and children