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Afghanistan, South Asia
Political Leader: President Hamid Karzai
Religions: Islam 97.9, Parsee 1.5%, Other 0.6%
Persecution Ranking: 7th
Number of Terrorist Groups: 16
Acts of Terrorism: 1,056; Casualties: 1,725
Percent of Corruption: Insufficient Data to Rank
% of People in Poverty: 53%
Afghanistan is a rugged, landlocked country which bears the proud distinction of being one of the few countries in the Middle East that successfully resisted colonization by European empires. However, it did not manage to completely escape European influence. Its borders were defined by Russian and Britain during their struggle for power in Central Asia. Their geopolitical design rendered entire nationalities divided by borders, thus sowing the seeds of future discord into fertile soil.
Supported by the international community, the Afghan government has made suppression of terrorism and establishment of effective law-enforcement mechanisms a high priority, according to Country Reports on Terrorism 2007. The Afghan government has reached out to neighboring Pakistan through a Joint Peace Jirga (tribal assembly) to find ways to root out economic and social factors contributing to terrorism.
The Taliban continued to target police, police recruits, government ministers, parliamentarians, civil servants, and civilians in numerous violent incidents. According to media reports, terrorists launched approximately 140 suicide bombing attacks in 2007, inflicting large numbers of civilian casualties. Terrorists, often supported by criminal gangs, have also increasingly turned to kidnapping foreigners, most notably the July 2007 abduction of 23 South Korean Christian missionary aid workers. This kidnapping was an attempt to extort ransom as well as to make a political point; the Taliban killed two hostages before releasing the remaining 21 after talks with the Afghan and South Korean governments.
Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with no churches and a Christian population of around 0.01%. Freedom of religion, as stated in the nation's constitution, remains a contradiction since Islamic law is promoted as the law of the land. Although it guarantees freedom of religion to non-Muslims, laws that are “contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” are prohibited by the same constitution. Christians need to be very careful; foreigners caught in outreach are being jailed and usually deported. Local Afghans who commit themselves to Christ are often pressured by family and society to follow the cultural norms of Islam. Converts to Christ suffer repeated verbal abuse and intimidation, beatings, loss of employment, and even imprisonment.
Challenges for Christians:
Persecution of Christians is intense, according to International Christian Concern (ICC). During the Taliban regime, persecution was accomplished formally by law and informally by tribes and families. Since the overthrow of the Taliban, the legal system no longer imposes criminal sentences on Christians.
However, it also does not interfere when a Christian’s family or tribe murders him for apostasy from Islam. The situation for native Christians in Afghanistan has not been much better under American occupation or the new but firmly Islamic regime than it was under Taliban rule. Foreign aid workers who are Christian are, however, somewhat more free to operate than they were under the Taliban.
According to the International Religious Freedom Report, government protection of religious freedom has improved during the year 2007, ICC said. Afghanistan is ranked No. 7 on the 2008 Open Doors World Watch List.
- Pray that the terrorist groups will be thrown into confusion and will not be able to regroup, recruit, or have the capacity to be disruptive. Pray that the Taliban resurgence will be halted and that peace and stability will come to the country. Ask the Lord to powerfully topple the demonic forces that are using the terrorists like puppets so that the people will be set free to worship the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
- Pray for God to graciously reveal Himself to Afghanis who are not seeking Him (Isaiah 65:1) and to intervene to frustrate the ways of the Taliban (Psalm 146:9).
- Pray that the Islamic extremism evident in the last quarter century will be channeled into love and passion for Jesus Christ. (Acts 26:18) Ask God to draw these leaders to the truth of Himself so that these influencers will His saving grace. (1 Timothy 2:1–4)
- Pray that the Afghani drug trade; which is, as of March, 2008, the greatest illicit opium producer in the world, will cease, and stop funding terrorism in the region. (Mark 4:6)
- Pray for God to continue to protect from harm the Christians of Afghanistan.
- Pray for those in leadership roles to hunger and thirst after the one true God and seek His kingdom. Pray for godly men and women to obtain positions of influence in these countries. (Daniel 2:48) Ask God for courage and protection, both spiritual as well as physical, for church leaders.
- Pray for Afghans who turn to Christ – they are often pressured by family and society to return to Islam and may face repeated verbal abuse, intimidation, beatings, unemployment, and even imprisonment.
- Pray for God to visit Afghanistan in a powerful way, revealing Himself graciously to those not seeking Him. (Isaiah 65:1)
- Pray for all who share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed. Ask God to keep Afghanistan's intensely persecuted underground Believers safe so the Afghan Church may live and grow to be an instrument of blessing (salt), transformation (yeast), and truth-giving (light) for the nation.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, CIA Factbook, Wikipedia, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, Country Reports on Terrorism 2007, http://www.newint.org/issue269/profile.htm (New Internationalist)
Open Doors, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Barnabas Fund, International Christian Concern