My young family and I were missionaries embedded among a tribal region of Siberian Russia throughout the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. in 2001. Having arrived in 1998, we had learned the language, established ourselves, built relationships and were already into our first church plant by the time the Twin Towers and Pentagon were attacked. As American and NATO forces moved into Afghanistan, we were daily walking among hardened Siberian war veterans who had already been there and done that ― with Russian/USSR forces ― in Afghanistan, just 15 years prior.
From World War II to Korea, from the Berlin Wall to Vietnam, From the fall of the Soviet Union to 9/11, and every event before, between and after, global geopolitical events impact the spread of the gospel!
Even with a pandemic and natural disasters rocking Haiti and parts of the United States, Afghanistan has recently eclipsed all, becoming the primary global focus. Not to minimize any suffering, but in Afghanistan, we are observing and feeling a different kind of desperation. News reports reveal people who are not suffering from a pandemic or a natural disaster, but rather those fleeing from the unlivable realities of evil embodied in human-orchestrated terror.
Though we are watching throngs of Muslims attempt to flee from the Taliban’s forthcoming enforcement of Sharia law, consider the small minority of Afghan Christ-followers who have nowhere to turn. Multiple news reports regarding Afghan Christians are reflective of Christ’s apocalyptic words in Luke 23:29-30, “For behold the days are coming when…they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’”
We often find Christ-followers caught in the throes of geopolitical conflict. Though under-reported, Afghan Christians and Christian workers in Afghanistan are caught in an unfathomably hard place. According to current statistics from JoshuaProject.net (2021), there are just over 9,000 Afghan Christ-followers in Afghanistan, with expatriates from Britain and the United States adding an additional 3,000.
Believers around the world are praying for Afghanistan, but are we praying for Afghan Christ-followers? 1 Corinthians 14:15 exhorts us to pray with understanding. An April 7, 2021 report on the situation facing Christian converts in Afghanistan from Norwegian group Landinfo.no gives us perspective for informed prayer that goes beyond the basics of safety. The following are seven prayer points for Afghan Christians.
PRAY for the fellowship of underground believers. Afghan Christians are no strangers to ostracism and persecution, but even secretive gatherings are dangerous. Only those Christian Afghans living outside of Afghanistan are free to be publicly open about their Christian faith. Afghan Christians typically meet in private homes, in groups of two to four people. Pray for Afghan believers to find ways to experience and be encouraged through Christian fellowship. Pray for their faith to strengthen even when supportive Christian groups and workers leave.
PRAY for the continued success of digital and analog channels of evangelism. Nearly all Afghan Christians have converted from Islam. Many Afghan Muslims have come to faith after in-depth exploration and comparative study of scripture. Radio broadcasts, digital Bibles, apps and other non-printed means of evangelism have been effective, though increasingly illegal in Afghanistan.
Pray for the gospel to spread beyond the Afghan cities. All who live in small towns know that small-town culture can be a bastion of tradition as well as a fishbowl where everyone knows everything about everyone. This dynamic has significantly increased the risks of sharing the gospel in the rural regions of Afghanistan. As such, nearly all Afghan Christians reside in cities. Pray for Afghan believers in cities to discerningly introduce their rural relational connections to the truth of the gospel of Christ.
PRAY for entire households to come to faith. In Afghanistan, the family unit is the center of society, personal identity and social standing. When one family member comes to faith in Christ and is open about their faith, they easily burn all bridges with their family and extended family. Until the resurgence of the Taliban, the government had not pursued Afghan Christ-followers. Sadly, it has been family members who have led the charge toward shame-driven punishment. In the New Testament, we often see examples of entire households coming to faith. Even if entire households must worship in secret, please pray for entire families and extended families to come to faith.
PRAY for resettling Afghan Christian refugees to be missionaries in their new homes. There are nearly eight million Afghans living around the world, mostly in countries that are open to Christianity. When believers are so accustomed to persecution, one of their greatest challenges is knowing how to live for Christ in the context of freedom. Pray resettled Afghan Christians to live out the gospel in their new contexts missionally.
PRAY for Afghan Christians to sustain an eternal Kingdom perspective. Even though the current Afghan law allows for killing Christian converts, no such killings occurred after the fall of the Taliban. With the rise of the Taliban, the killing of Christian converts will likely be enforced. Sharia law allows acquittal for those Christians who recant their faith, but this does not mean release from localized sanctions against them. When faced with persecution and/or death, pray for Afghan Christians to stay strong and not recant their faith. Pray for them to be comforted by the example of one who died next to Christ, saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
PRAY for the blood of the martyrs to be the seeds of the church in Afghanistan. As Afghan and expatriate Christ-followers suffer and even give their lives for their faith, pray for this testimony to evangelistically prepare the soil for the building of Christ’s church in Afghanistan.
Jim Capaldo, Regional President
Jim Capaldo is Converge Heartland Regional President.