As the Taliban continue to gain control of Afghanistan following the pullout of U.S. troops, leaders of the underground Christian church are warning of the implications for religious minority groups in the country.
In a statement released Tuesday, the leader of the underground church ministering to Christians in Afghanistan and the founder of the nonprofit organization Global Catalytic Ministries, who goes by the alias Pastor X, provided a “first-hand ground report” on the situation in the country. The statement was shared by Frontier Alliance International, an organization committed to laying the foundations for the Gospel where there are none.
“The Taliban has a hit list of known Christians they are targeting to pursue and kill. The U.S. Embassy is defunct and there is no longer a safe place for believers to take refuge," the statement reads.
“All borders to neighboring countries are closed and all flights to and from have been halted, with the exception of private planes. People are fleeing into the mountains looking for asylum. They are fully reliant on God, who is the only One who can and will protect them.”
The statement noted that “the Taliban are going door-to-door taking women and children."
"The people must mark their house with an ‘X’ if they have a girl over 12 years old, so that the Taliban can take them. If they find a young girl and the house was not marked, they will execute the entire family," the statement added. "If a married woman 25 years old or older has been found, the Taliban promptly kill her husband, do whatever they want to her, and then sell her as a sex slave.”
Additionally, Pastor X stated that “Husbands and fathers have given their wives and daughters guns and told them that when the Taliban come, they can choose to kill them or kill themselves — it is their choice.”
In a statement released Tuesday and shared with The Christian Post, Rex Rogers, the president of the nonprofit Christian media ministry SAT-7, elaborated on the dangers faced by Christians.
“We’re hearing from reliable sources that the Taliban demand people’s phones, and if they find a downloaded Bible on your device, they will kill you immediately," Rogers said.
“It’s incredibly dangerous right now for Afghans to have anything Christian on their phones. The Taliban have spies and informants everywhere."
With the Taliban's takeover, SAT-7 reports that many Afghans have begun censoring themselves to avoid "retribution." In the first six months of 2021, SAT-7 PARS reported an increase in audience engagement from viewers in Afghanistan. SAT-7 PARS broadcasts two Dari programs targeting Afghan viewers titled "Window of Light" and "Secret of Life."
In an update Thursday, SAT-7 reported that an anonymous SAT-7 PARS viewer told the organization that Christians "are in real danger."
"Sadly, in the past two to three days, my family and I have received death threats," the viewer was quoted as saying. "In this emergency situation, I have no other way but to escape from the country."
Another viewer who came to Christ about a year ago told SAT-7 that the situation is "dreadful."
"My daughter’s life and my life are both in danger," the viewer was quoted as saying. "My daughter is 8 years old. She has no one else except me. It was so difficult to find a phone to contact you.”
Joel Richardson, preacher and host of “The Underground” podcast, explained Monday that “In the rural villages, what the Taliban is doing … especially if they know that the families are Christians, i.e., infidels, they’re taking the women who are … teens and younger and giving them away as prizes” to Taliban fighters. According to Richardson, it’s not just Afghan Christians who find themselves in danger due to the Taliban’s resurgence.
The Taliban has also set its sights on Afghans who have demonstrated any allegiance to the U.S. over the past two decades. “Tens of thousands of Afghanis who worked with the American military as translators, who were part of the government, many of them are being targeted, executed,” he said.
As the Taliban gains ground in Afghanistan, leaders of Christian nonprofit agencies and pastors have called on Americans and the international community as a whole to pray for Christians in Afghanistan. Officials with faith-based refugee resettlement agencies have urged the U.S. government to admit tens of thousands of Afghan Christians and “American-affiliated Afghans” as refugees.
Although leaders of Christian organizations agree that Christians, other religious minorities and women will face much stronger persecution with the Taliban in control, they disagree about the degree of progress made in Afghanistan before the pullout of U.S. troops.
Pastor X lamented that "20 years of work and the strengthening of a nation being destroyed in a single day” while World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher stressed that “we should not pretend as if everything was well in Afghanistan before the Taliban taking control of the country.” Schirrmacher asserted that because “the constitution of 2004 stated that Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with Islam as its state religion,” religious minorities never fully received equal rights in the country.
With the Taliban on the march in Afghanistan, Global Catalytic Ministries has launched a “war chest” for Christians in Afghanistan that seeks to provide them with “emergency funds and supplies to help them get to safety” as well as food, water, shelter and other basic needs. The organization hopes to raise $500,000 for 1,500 families between now and Sept. 11, which marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that led the U.S. to become militarily involved in Afghanistan to combat al Qaeda.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org