MPs and Lords highlight danger for Christians in Afghanistan

20 August 2021

The recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has put Christians in particular danger, as the Taliban seize power.

The House of Commons and the House of Lords were recalled this week to discuss the crisis, with a number of MPs and peers highlighting the particular plight of Christians.

Jeffery Donaldson, leader of the DUP highlighted the severity of the persecution of Christians in Afghanistan:

“We need also to consider the plight of religious minorities, to which my hon. friend the Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) referred earlier, including Christians, who now face massive persecution in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is ranked second only to North Korea in terms of religious persecution against Christians and others. We must not lose sight of that in the midst of all this.”

Fiona Bruce, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief highlighted the failure of previous schemes to protect persecuted minorities, including Christians:

“As the Prime Minister’s special envoy on FORB, I welcome that, but I offer a word of caution. We have heard that the scheme will be similar to the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, but for some minority groups who were targeted for their beliefs, including Yazidis, Christians and Shi’as, that scheme was not as effective as was intended. Those groups were disproportionately under-represented in refugee referrals to the UK—indeed, substantially so. One reason was that the scheme outsourced the selection of refugees to the UNHCR, whose vulnerability criteria did not include people who were being targeted for their faith. Another factor was that many, particularly Christians, were too afraid to enter the refugee camps where selection took place because they feared that within those camps, they would face the very persecution that they had experienced outside. I hope that we can learn from that.

“Persecution in Afghanistan is extreme. As the US Commission on International Religious Freedom reports, groups such as Hindus, Christians and Sikhs remain endangered minorities. Many have fled the country, and many of their community leaders who remained have been killed. Yesterday, I spoke virtually with an Afghan Christian, and he confirmed that the Taliban are already knocking on doors in Kabul, requiring people to go to worship in the mosques and identifying those who refuse. Those so identified fear the worst for their lives. That is particularly true of publicly known faith leaders and house church leaders in local neighbourhoods. Their neighbours know them, and I am told that they fear being outed by their own neighbours.”

Peers in the House of Lords similarly spoke of Christian persecution in Afghanistan and Pakistan, starting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby:

“We must renew commitment to freedom of religion and belief everywhere, a point not much mentioned so far. That will count in Pakistan and Afghanistan for Christians and religious communities such as Shia, Hindus, Jains, Ahmadis and Sikhs. A WhatsApp from a Christian in Afghanistan yesterday asked for support there and in Pakistan. Memorably, he said, ‘I am willing to die for Jesus, but I do not want to die forgotten.’”

Other peers also highlighted the freedom of Christians, while Lord Farmer highlighted the macro problem Afghanistan and the West alike face:

“The Taliban believe in a God; Christians believe in a God who values every life; whereas the root of secularism is simply a belief in the infallible ‘me’. We despair of the chaos on the ground in Afghanistan, but the disintegration of our spiritual backbone blinds us to the chaos all around us, and to its inevitable end-point: the decay and decline of the West.”

There will be no easy answers for solving the crisis in Afghanistan, but Western governments need to ensure that the particular needs that Christians – particularly ex-Muslims – now face in the region are met, and do whatever it takes to protect life.

But Lord Farmer is justified in raising our eyes to the bigger challenge – 20 years of secular liberal values are not enough to bring life, justice and mercy to a nation.

Let’s keep praying that the gospel will prosper; saving lives and building a culture that allows people to flourish in Afghanistan and around the world.

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