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Afghanistan: Christians in the Crosshairs

October 12, 2006

(By Neal Youngquist)

Strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia,
Afghanistan has been an attractive yet elusive target for numerous
civilisations over the course of history. From Alexander the Great
to Genghis Khan to the Soviet Empire and now to Western
multilateral forces, Afghanistan has seen more than its share of
armed conflict and occupations.

Islam, adhered to by 99 percent of Afghanistan\'s mostly
impoverished 25 million, has dominated society since its
introduction by Arab invaders in the 7th century. Yet with the
emergence of democracy and international exposure comes a newfound
openness to Christianity resulting in small but significant Church
growth. Afghan believers are estimated to have grown from a
handful to thousands today. Interest in Christianity among more
educated Afghans is reportedly on the increase also. Much of this
growth is due to the efforts of Christian-based organisations
responding to the nation\'s dire poverty with charity, relief and
development services.

However this growth is often not without great personal cost. Those
with the courage to seriously consider or commit themselves to
Christ are often exposed to great family and social pressures to
follow the cultural norms of Islam. Following Christ entails great
risks. Beatings by hired thugs, repeated verbal abuse and
intimidation, loss of employment and even death face those who
commit themselves to the narrow road that leads to true life.
Christians are likely targets for opportunity-seeking Muslims
intent on martyrdom and entrance into an Islamic paradise.

Freedom of religion as stated in the nation\'s new constitution
remains a contradiction as Islamic law is also promoted as the law
of the land. Abdul Rahman, a former Muslim who faced trial and
execution for apostasy due to his Christian conversion (refer to
RLP 370), clearly indicates the long road ahead for acceptance of
non-Islamic faiths.

More troubling is the expanding influence of a \'new\' Taliban with a
more radical, cunning and brutal agenda of re-instating a
tyrannical grip of fear and intimidation over the hearts of the
people. As affirmed by recent events, Taliban insurgencies are
importing tactics and technology from Iraq. Afghanistan\'s southern
provinces have experienced a rise in suicide attacks, guerrilla
tactics and assassinations of government officials, moderate
clerics and civilians. People are increasingly fearful of a return
to the Taliban regime - now embracing a global jihad - and are
mentally preparing for an inevitable escape for safe refuge at
border camps.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf informed European lawmakers
last month, \'The centre of gravity of terrorism has shifted
from al Qaeda to the Taliban. This is a new element, is a more
dangerous element because it [the Taliban] has its roots in the
people. Al Qaeda didn\'t have roots in the people.\'

No doubt a more vigorous and radical Taliban places Christian
nationals and international aid organisations at increased threat
of harm and disrupts their good efforts to bring about positive and
sustainable change. Vigilant prayer is needed to turn the tide of
fear and insecurity sweeping over Afghanistan. Boldly let our
prayers ring out to the heavens in response to the timely request
of an ex-patriate Christian aid worker: \'Would you pray that these
dark clouds that seem to hover in this desert place I call home
become showers of blessings instead of a storm that threatens to
drown us all?\'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* faithfulness, divine strength and protection to surround the
Afghan church in the midst of expanding threats and tribulation;
may believers continue to grow in their faith and have consistent
opportunities to worship together, though in secret. (John 16:33;
1 Peter 5:8-10)

* safety, wisdom and discretion to encompass ex-patriate
Christians faithfully shining the light of Christ in word and
deed, praying especially for their endurance to be \'salt and
light\' in a hard and foreboding field. (Galatians 6:9)

* President Hamid Karzai, all in authority and those working
toward building a climate of peace and security; especially lift
up government workers at all levels who are prime Taliban targets
for assassination. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

\'For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.\' 2 Chronicles
20:12

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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CHRISTIANS IN THE CROSSHAIRS IN AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan has suffered much conflict over the course of history.
Today is no different as a \'new\' Taliban is exerting a grip of
terror and intimidation over Afghanistan\'s mostly impoverished 25
million. A radical Taliban, importing tactics and technology from
Iraq, puts the Christian minority and Christian aid bodies at great
risk. Moreover, recent hostilities threaten the peace and security
that has engendered a small yet significant growth in Christianity.
Though Christians face risks of beatings, intimidation, family
pressures and even death, faith in Christ and interest levels
continue to grow. Pray for divine safety, strength and faithfulness
to surround the Afghan church. Intercede for opportunities to
worship together, although mostly in secret. Lift up all leaders
and authorities and those working to build a climate of peace and
security. May their efforts be graced with strength and endurance.

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RLP guest writer Neal Youngquist serves as the International
Services Director for Asia with Prison Fellowship International.
Elizabeth Kendal, our regular researcher and writer, is currently
on other RLC assignments

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* IRAN UPDATE: Reza Montazemi and Fereshteh Dibaj (see RLP 398)
have been released on bail with no charges as yet laid. They are
well and were not mistreated while in custody. We thank our Lord
for his mercy. Please continue to pray for Reza Montazemi and
Fereshteh Dibaj, Issa Motamadi, Hamid Pourmand, Ali Kaboli, their
families and doubtless other Christian leaders, evangelists and
ministers all under the threatening eye of the Iranian secret
police and Revolutionary Guard. Pray also for God to graciously
send his Spirit in great awakening and transforming power on Iran.


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