The Christian aid organization Open Doors warned in a statement to Breitbart News on Monday that a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan may be the single worst violator of religious freedom in the world.
Afghanistan is home to a small minority of Christians already brutally repressed under the now-defunct administration of former President Ashraf Ghani. Prior to the Taliban’s return to power on August 15, Open Doors had ranked Afghanistan second only to North Korea on its World Watch List, an annual listing of countries doing the most to abuse, suppress, and violate the human rights of Christians and other religious minorities.
Following the Taliban’s installation in power this month, evidence rapidly began surfacing of Taliban terrorists going door-to-door seeking Christians to persecute and kill. Afghans found with Christian materials on their mobile phones, such as downloadable Bibles, faced immediate execution according to some on-the-ground reports.
Sickening. Praying for Christians in Afghanistan. https://t.co/pDEgNmzJna
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) August 20, 2021
Taliban spokesmen have insisted that the new Afghan regime they will build will be “inclusive” of all sectors of the country’s population but have explicitly avoided discussing religious freedom at all. They have renamed the country after themselves, the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” and insisted they would govern through sharia, or the Islamic law, leaving no room for religious diversity.
Open Doors confirmed that its sources have also witnessed Taliban door-to-door inspections to persecute “everyone with perceived or real connections to the West.” Many jihadist organizations associate Christianity in general with Western culture and consider it a foreign aberration.
“Non-Muslims are especially unwanted, and Christians are in grave danger,” Amy Lamb, Open Doors USA’s Director of Communications, told Breitbart News on Monday. “Those who are exposed will be severely punished with kidnapping, torture, possibly even death.”
“Afghanistan is ranked the second-worst persecutor of Christians in the world on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List. It lags only behind North Korea in intensity, severity, and reach of persecution,” Lamb explained. “The Taliban takeover adds another layer of persecution. Now that the risks and threats have increased, Afghanistan rivals North Korea as the worst violator of religious freedom in the world.”
“The thin layer of protection and justice that Afghan Christians had before the takeover is now completely gone. Christians are looking for ways to survive,” Lamb emphasized.
In January, the 2021 edition of the World Watch List proclaimed, “it is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan.” Much of the persecution against Christians was occurring in areas already controlled by the Taliban, but factors such as tribal or even familial persecution of Christian converts played a tremendous role in the threat. The U.S.-backed government reportedly did little to protect Afghan Christians from violent retaliation from their relatives and neighbors.
“Areas controlled by the Taliban are particularly oppressive, but there is no safe way to express any form of Christian faith in the country,” Open Doors noted at the time, describing the country as “only very slightly less oppressive than … North Korea.”
North Korea is a communist atheist dictatorship that considers Christianity itself a national security threat. Those suspected of harboring Christian beliefs, possessing Christian materials such as Bibles, or otherwise engaging with Christianity in any way face state executions or lifetimes in grueling labor camps, enduring extreme torture. North Korean state museums display Bibles alongside firearms, identified as weapons of war.
In her remarks to Breitbart News, Lamb emphasized that Christians are not the only vulnerable religious minority in the country.
“Christians are not the only religious minorities who are targeted. Sikhs are also persecuted but are considered less threatening because they are not known for sharing their faith,” Lamb explained. “While they can still openly identify as Sikhs, they do experience plenty of hostility. Christians, however, must hide their faith or experience near-inevitable kidnapping, torture, and death.”
Lamb urged the world to offer “prayers and advocacy” for all Afghans, now facing not only the extreme dangers of Taliban rule but famine and disease given the collapse of the already precarious Afghan state infrastructure.
“Everyone in Afghanistan is in need of safety, food, clean water, and medical care. Supply chains have broken down and clinics have stopped functioning,” Lamb noted. “Clean water still runs from the taps, but it is at risk of becoming contaminated. If violence breaks out at a larger scale, more infrastructure will be lost, leading to greater loss of life.”
The Taliban have yet to make any public statements on the Chinese coronavirus pandemic since August 15. They do not have a clearly designated public health official and have not indicated they have any strategy in place to combat the pandemic.
Open Doors’ assessment of the situation for Christians in the country aligns with similar reports by other Christian groups active in the country. International Christian Concern (ICC), citing sources on the ground, warned Christians to attempt to stay out of the Taliban’s radar to the best of their ability.
“We are telling people to stay in their houses because going out now is too dangerous,” an Afghan Christian leader reportedly told ICC. “Some known Christians are already receiving threatening phone calls. In these phone calls, unknown people say, ‘We are coming for you.'”
CBN, which relayed the ICC report, noted that Afghanistan is believed to be home to between 10,000 and 12,000 Christians.