In the last month, Afghanistan has seen the return to power of the Taliban, a hardline extremist Muslim group. The small amount of local Christians have been fearing the worst – many keep their faith a complete secret as even before the Taliban came back to power, persecution of Christians was already intense and extreme. Saad and Fatimah*, two of the few, secret believers in Afghanistan, have chosen to stay. Their families practiced their Christian faith in the shadows for more than 40 years – and though they’re used to the dangers of living for Jesus, they plead for the church around the world to intercede.
“When the Taliban took control, it was everything we feared. You cannot understand it like I do. I cannot explain it in words,” says Saad. “The night the Taliban took control, I felt someone step into my memories and try to snuff them out, to speak fear to me.
“In another room, my wife went into labor and a baby girl was born. A baby girl to a Christian family on a fateful night as this. My father read Psalm 20 over my baby and my wife from the other side of the curtain where the men were huddled together… We were afraid. We are afraid.”
“These soldiers are not committed to human dignity,” adds Fatimah. “Their eyes are looking all the time how to have power and how to demean anyone who wants to think and dream. It is our thoughts and dreams that need to be preserved and saved. Our faith lives there, in our hearts, and in our minds. Save our thoughts and dreams. Pray for us.”
Image: Boys playing in the road in Afghanistan
“The list has been circulated with our names on it,” Saad shares, confirming the list of Christians to have been targeted by the Taliban. Since the takeover, Taliban house visits have become a regular occurrence. “Some [of us] have been killed. Some have been kidnapped, some have disappeared. It feels like the morning after a massive cataclysmic explosion.”
The secret church in Afghanistan has been wrung out since the takeover – some have fled, some have stayed, and there are those who simply could not be contacted. “We call one another and ask about headaches, shoulder pain, all injuries, old health concerns, all in a bid to remain connected,” says Saad. “For now, this is all we can ask.”
“It’s just not an option to follow Jesus in public,” Fatima continues. “There may be new soldiers in the capital city, but this is not new, these threats… The pain of living for Jesus and risking everything to follow him, there’s nothing new about that. Not for me, and not for my grandparents who also lived for him and followed Him. That’s been the reality for Afghan believers for more than 40 years. First, under the Taliban, and then under the American supported government, even before the Taliban took control last month.”
“For us, everything has been taken away,” Saad says. “We need you to ask God on our behalf. We need to know you are strong. Everyone seems to have forgotten God. This is very frightening. We feel disoriented. We feel alone. We cannot speak of our God, but you can. So, speak to Him. Let Him empower you and us to fight this era of destructiveness and bring His kingdom by being like Him.
“I do not right now know where to begin, but I know this: Despite the restrictions, there are the hungry who need food, the naked who need clothes, prisoners who need freedom, and the lost, who needs God’s arm,” Saad continues. “I do not know where to begin, but I will begin with encouraging my wife that there is a hope for our daughter.”
“When you pray, you meet us in the room of God’s throne,” says Fatimah. “You meet us there and we can have communion there. For you, it is easy to have communion in your churches. For us, not so.”
“It will not be easy, but we do this because we believe Jesus is there and is alive,” shares Saad. “We are all reading and meditating on John 17, especially trying to understand the measure of love. If you love us, pray for us. This is where we are together: At the foot of the cross, where the full measure of love is known.”
“If you love me – if you love Jesus – pray for us.
*Names changed for security reasons…
For Saad, Fatimah and their daughter. Pray for strength, safety and that the Taliban wouldn't be able to identify them.
Pray for peace and stability in the country, and for the Taliban government to bring in an era of tolerance - one where religious freedom is respected, where girls and women have an equal place in society as men and boys and for fighting to cease.
Pray that the small Christian community would know God's help and protection. Pray they would be able to find ways to connect and support one another. Pray for the global church to stand with their Afghan family.
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