Under Islam, conversion is regarded as apostasy and punishable by death. As a result, in Afghanistan converts have tended to exercise their faith in secret, so that it is difficult to know the true size of the Christian community. Estimates vary from between 1,000 to 20,000 believers. But what is known is that, since 2001 – under Western protection, no matter how inadequate – the numbers have increased.
It is certain that as the Taliban now consolidate their hold on power, Christianity will once again be rigorously suppressed, and believers will face an almost unimaginable future of violent and bloody persecution, confiscation of property, and death.
Below is the text of the letter VfJUK has sent to the Prime Minister, urging him to rescue and offer sanctuary, as priority, to Afghan Christians. It has been copied to the Rt Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.
Please write urgently to Mr Johnson and to your own MP, urging the UK’s support before it all becomes too late – and there is no one left to save.
Dear Prime Minister,
As the UK seeks to evacuate people at risk from Afghanistan, there are increasing and concerning reports of violent reprisals by the Taliban against those who have collaborated with US and Nato forces, and religious minority groups. Now there have also reportedly been civilian executions.
Christians especially are vulnerable. It was reported last week that leaders of underground house churches have received letters from the Taliban, warning them that they ‘know where they are and what they are doing‘ (https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/for-afghan-christians-the-taliban-takeover-is-a-nightmare). Individual Christians have also reported death threats (https://www.christiantoday.com/article/christians.in.afghanistan.tell.of.death.threats/137277.htm).
It is difficult to know the precise number of Christians in Afghanistan. Islam, as you will know, regards conversion as apostasy and punishable by death. Accordingly, converts have long been accustomed to exercise their faith in secret, but since 2001 it is known that the Christian community has grown, and current estimates put the number from anything between 1,000 and 20,000 believers.
It should be remembered that, even under Western influence, converts to Christianity faced a real risk of being disowned by their family, clan or tribe. In such a situation, if they were lucky, they were diagnosed as mentally ill and sectioned – if unlucky and couldn’t get to a place of safety, they were, as like as not, killed.
Up to now Afghanistan has ranked as the second most dangerous place in the world for religious persecution, but under the Taliban it is certain that the situation will become infinitely worse. Without doubt Christianity will once again be ruthlessly suppressed, and believers will face an almost unimaginable future.
Canada is already offering visas to religious minorities whose lives are presumed endangered under the Taliban (https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2021/08/canada-expands-resettlement-program-to-bring-more-afghans-to-safety.html).
Voice for Justice UK urges that the UK do likewise and that, in the evacuation of those known to be vulnerable, as priority, we offer sanctuary to Afghan Christians.
With our prayers for your wisdom and support at this difficult time,
Revd Lynda Rose
CEO, Voice for Justice UK