As the Taliban takes full control in Afghanistan, Christian pastors are pleading for prayers as they and their families hide in fear from the conquering Islamic extremist group.
Since the weekend, hundreds of Afghans have flooded Kabul’s airport, desperate to catch a flight out of the country and avoid the harsh Islamic rule of the Taliban. A growing mass of refugees is crossing the border into neighbouring countries.
Josh Manley, a pastor of RAK Evangelical Church in the United Arab Emirates, has received anxious emails and messages over the past few days and hours from church leaders with whom he has built partnerships over the past decade.
In an article published on the Christian news website, 9Marks he reveals: “One house church leader sent me a picture of the small room he was hiding in with his family. He wrote, ‘This is where I am living. We are hidden right now in different areas.’
“Another pastor wrote, ‘We can’t go out like normal. It’s dangerous. We moved to one of my friend’s houses, but it’s not safe at all.’”
Mindy Belz, senior editor at WORLD Christian news magazine, tweeted that pastors say they received letters from the Taliban saying they know where they are and what they are doing, “The leaders say they aren’t going anywhere. So it begins,” she writes.
Open Doors has also issued a call for urgent prayer for the country and the small group of Christian believers in Afghanistan, which is ranked No 2 on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List.
“It’s a heartbreaking day for the citizens of Afghanistan and an even more dangerous time to be a Christian.” – Brother Samuel
“It’s a heartbreaking day for the citizens of Afghanistan and an even more dangerous time to be a Christian,” says Brother Samuel (not his real name), Open Doors Field Director for Asia.
“It’s an uncertain situation for the whole country, not just for secret believers. Our hearts are broken. We knew this could happen. We are not surprised but this does not make the pain any less.
“Secret believers in Afghanistan are especially vulnerable. Prior to Taliban rule, they already had a very difficult time living out their faith, as they had to keep it secret from their families for fear of being shunned, or worse, killed. Now that the Taliban is in power, their vulnerability increases tenfold. It would be almost impossible to be a follower of Jesus in this country. We are monitoring the situation, but this is the time for us to ask God to have mercy not only on his people but on this country as a whole.”
Please pray for the small group of believers in the country. They are walking on eggshells and are uncertain who to trust. Pray that they find strength, wisdom and supernatural peace in God’s promises.
Pray for the displaced. A new wave of refugees is expected to come from Afghanistan to many parts of the Middle East and the rest of the world. Pray for God’s protection and provision over them in their journeys.
Pray for the women. Many women fear that Taliban rule means they will be stripped of opportunities for education. Women involved in education during the past years could also be at risk – pray for their protection.
Pray for the sick. Though under-reported in international media, COVID-19 cases are spiking in the country and hospitals are limited in what they can offer. There is no certainty as to how the healthcare system will be able to sustain itself with the new Taliban government. Pray that the healthcare system will not collapse
Pray that the country will not be a haven for extremists. The Taliban government of 20 years ago are known enablers of extremist Islamic organisations. With their newfound control over Afghanistan, the country could be host to a new generation of
Josh Manley in the UAE also listed prayer points that he received from the Afghan pastors themselves.
Physical protection and provision: “I asked one brother if he was presently in physical danger. He replied, ‘Not only me but my family too … because of me.’
“Pray also for physical provision. One brother asked that we would pray ‘for financial issues because no one can take out money from the bank and ATMs are empty.’
“A number have specifically asked that we would pray for visas to get out of the country.”
Spiritual provision: “Every church leader who has emailed or texted me has asked that we would pray for the Lord to strengthen them in their faith – that they would ‘stay strong in the Lord, who is the Sovereign King,’ as one put it.
“’Pray for me to be strong in my faith. It is really hard to stay here,’ said another.”
Gospel advance: “One brother described these days as “dark” and said they feel like a “storm.” Then he asked that we pray for “revival.” What faith! Here is a man whose life is in danger asking us, who enjoy so many privileges and freedoms, to pray that God would open the eyes of the spiritually blind and give life to dead hearts.
“Wouldn’t it be like our God to work in these horrible circumstances to make his great name known? While our Afghan brothers and sisters face terrible uncertainty, we should be like the believers in Acts 12 who themselves faced serious threats and persecution but, without ceasing, offered up earnest prayers to God.”
“Our hope is not in politics, but in Jesus”: Manley writes that over the past weeks, as US mission agencies pulled out their workers, he had the opportunity to minister to them as they processed their grief and confusion. “I’m grateful they could get out. Pray for them as well as for any who chose to stay,” he writes.
“But pray especially for the Afghans who have no choice but to stay, such as one brother who has already spent time imprisoned for his faith in Afghanistan. He has assured me again and again, ‘We can trust that our Lord is mighty and will care for his children.’ And: ‘Our hope is not in politics but in Jesus who is the King.’”
“Pray especially for the Afghans who have no choice but to stay.” – Josh Manley
Meanwhile, a Catholic priest in Kabul has issued an urgent call on Vatican Radio to “pray, pray, pray for Afghanistan!
“We are living days of great apprehension as we await what happens,” said Barnabite Fr. Giovanni Scalese, head of Missiosui iuris (an independent mission the direction of the Catholic Church) in Afghanistan.
Caritas Italiana, which has served the poorest and most vulnerable in Afghan society since the 1990s, said that the few priests, male and female religious, who are in Kabul are preparing to evacuate.
Caritas said it would suspend its activities, given the instability of the situation, with the possibility of a presence in the future an open question.