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World News

'Help us be heard' the plight of Afghan Christians driven increasingly underground

by Donna Birrell

The Christian church in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly hidden, according to the charity, Release International.

It says Christians are now fleeing the cities for more remote areas in a bid to remain unseen by the Taliban regime.

There are believed to be fewer than 10,000 Christians still in the country after the Taliban regime took control last month.

Andrew Boyd from Release International told Premier that according to its partners working inside Afghanistan, some have already received death threats and there is concern about 'false reporting' increasing tension and fear among Christians:

"We're hearing that Christians are trapped in Afghanistan, we don't know how many, it was a small church to begin with. Quite a few have left while they could. But there are others who are trapped, they can't get out.

"The Taliban control the airfields and they also control the borders, some have managed to get into Pakistan, we know that some have headed towards Iran, but those borders are now shut to them.

"There is a lot of fear. But we understand that some of the Christians have left the largest cities and have gone into more rural areas. Remember, Afghanistan is very mountainous country. So this is an underground church. It always was. They're used to that. But of course, this is a time of great uncertainty for them. They need our prayers, and they need our support."

Release International is concerned about 'false reporting' of persecution under the Taliban, which is obscuring the real hardship faced by the Afghan Christians who remain. 
 
Such reports have presented images from Iraq of ISIS atrocities, and of a protest in Colombia, claimed to have been filmed in Afghanistan. Even a 2009 rumour of missionaries about to be executed in Iraq has been amplified and applied to Afghanistan.
 
"Understandably, there is a great deal of fear and rumour," says Release International CEO, Paul Robinson. "This is why we talk to partners who are working directly with the underground church."
 
Release International partners with SAT-7 Pars, which broadcasts programmes via satellite TV into Afghanistan. Adds Paul Robinson: "SAT-7 is hearing directly from its audience about what is happening in that country." 
 
One caller sent in a prayer request saying: "Oh Lord God, please protect us, because we are facing hell."
 
Another said: "My family and I came to Christ two years ago. I and my family have received death threats. I have no other way but to escape from the country. Help us to be heard so we can flee from this hell."

Andrew Boyd told Premier that despite the fear and persecution, Afghan Christians are resilient in their faith:

"Many of them in the church have come from a Muslim background, have learned what it is to live as Christians in the book of Acts, underground and persecuted, they know how to do that.

"But it's so important that for us here, that we hold them in our hearts, that we pray for them, and that we can provide some kind of practical support. So to that end Release International has launched an appeal for those who are dying for their faith and those who are fleeing for their faith. We're working with partners to provide support and encouragement and help for them. It's a dangerous business, but there are practical things that we can do to help Christians in Afghanistan."

More details of the Release International Appeal can be found here

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