Afghanistan is no stranger to struggle. The Soviet invasion in 1978 and pullout a decade later brought no peace. Islamic factions engaged in jihad, or holy war, and the Taliban, which follows an extreme form of militant Islam, gained control in 1996. The Taliban’s takeover of the country imposed a deviant expression of strict Wahhabist Islam, particularly devastating for Afghanistan’s women.
When the Taliban fell in 2001, the country’s economy improved largely because of the infusion of international assistance. Despite some progress, Afghanistan is extremely poor and highly dependent on foreign aid.
In 2004, Afghanistan held its first democratic elections and instated a new constitution. It declares, “The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.” Followers of other religions may exercise their faith and perform religious rites “within the limits of the provisions of law.” However, the constitution also says, “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.” Despite gains toward building a stable central government, a resurgent Taliban and continuing provincial instability remain serious challenges for the Afghan government.
Muslims make up the vast majority of Afghanistan’s population at 99.85 percent. Christians account for 0.05 percent. While there is limited freedom to practice other religions, there is no freedom to propagate another faith or to convert from Islam. Authorities often ignore the persecution that occurs. Citizens are free to practice their own religion, but individuals and organizations suspected of evangelizing Muslims have been threatened or attacked by militants. Because of these limitations, the Church in Afghanistan remains almost entirely underground.
Afghan Christians who don’t hide their convictions frequently receive threats of violence against themselves and their families. In some cases, new believers are harmed while other Christians are kidnapped. Non-governmental and Christian aid workers are also threatened if they are discovered to be Christians.
Every month, an average of one Christian is murdered, and one is arrested, (mostly on blasphemy charges). Kidnapping, physical harassment or attack on the property of Christians is more common and occurs almost every week. (Voice of the Martyrs)