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World News

'Stay in your homes' - Afghan Christians warned over fears for their safety

by Donna Birrell

Sunday 22nd August marks the UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.

But as the situation in Afghanistan remains unstable, there are fears over the safety of the country's Christian population. 

The charity, International Christian Concern says members of the country's secretive underground Church are filled with fear and uncertainty and are being told to stay in their houses.

It says that Afghanistan’s Christian community is almost exclusively comprised of converts from Islam. Some estimate the Christian population to be between 10,000 and 12,000, making it the country’s largest religious minority group. However, due to extreme persecution, the Christian community remains largely hidden from the public eye.

Their status as converts makes Afghan Christians direct targets for persecution by both extremist groups and society in general. In Afghanistan, leaving Islam is considered extremely shameful and converts can face dire consequences if their conversion is discovered.

"We are telling people to stay in their houses because going out now is too dangerous," a Christian leader in Afghanistan, whose name is being withheld for security reasons, told International Christian Concern (ICC). 

While a general amnesty has been announced by the Taliban, this leader fears that Christians will still be targeted by Taliban fighters patrolling the streets of Kabul and other cities.

The charity says that for Christians coming from convert backgrounds, the Taliban will consider them apostates and subject them to Sharia’s deadliest consequences.

"Some known Christians are already receiving threatening phone calls," the Christian leader told ICC. "In these phone calls, unknown people say, ‘We are coming for you.’"

Following the Taliban’s victory, there have been no targeted killings of Christians reported in Afghanistan. However, Christian leaders fear that it is only a matter of time before killings are reported.

Prior to the Taliban retaking the country, the charity, Open Doors ranked Afghanistan second on its World Watch List. The only country to outrank Afghanistan in Christian persecution is North Korea. 

 

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