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Christian persecution set to rise in Afghanistan after Taliban takeover, charity warns

by Kelly Valencia

Christians are being urged to pray for people in Afghanistan as persecution is likely to rise due to the Taliban takeover.

On Monday, as the Taliban confirmed it had 90 per cent of government buildings under its control in Kabul, thousands gathered at the city's international airport in a desperate attempt to flee the country. 

Christians in the south asian nation already face being killed or imprisoned for their faith. However, Christian charity Release International fears persecution will become even worse under the Taliban's ruling. 

"Even before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, the country has been going up the ranks of the most difficult countries in the world to be a Christian. So, if you try to change your faith from being a Muslim to Christian in Afghanistan, that's apostasy. You can be sentenced to death or imprisoned for doing that," Release International's Andrew Boyd told Premier. 

A Christian contact of one Release International partner described the situation as "dire".

"Our brothers and sisters in Christ are telling us how afraid they are. In the areas that the Taliban now control girls are not allowed to go to school and women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male companion."

The Taliban have pledged to prevent what they see as the westernization of women. It was the Pakistan Taliban who shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai for going to school and telling the world about it in a blog.

Boyd thinks it is actually women who will play a key role in keeping churches alive in the country: "The position of women in Afghanistan has changed substantially. So women have become far more educated. And it's possible the women may play a significant role in the underground church in the years to come. So the church in Afghanistan is very well placed to function underground under extreme persecution, but they need our prayers," he said. 

He went on to encourage Christians to pray for the situation in Afghanistan but also to act as "light and salt". 

"The good news here is that the UK has accepted report by the Bishop of Truro, that goes back a little bit now, which is implementing government policy to actually put religious freedom and human rights right at the centre of our dealings internationally. So, this is a long-term issue, but we do need to recognise our calling, to engage, to be salt and light and to press for righteousness and oppressed, to make a difference. We're called to do it and we need to do it," he concluded. 

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