‘Only Emmanuel is left’: Fear and faith in Afghanistan

August 27, 2021 by Christopher Summers in Prayer updates

The scenes from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, have been horrifying this week. Men, women and children crowded at the gates, begging to escape. The U.S. military says it has already evacuated over 100,000 people.

And then the bomb hit.

A suicide bomb blast killed a total of 85 people on Thursday. The bombing took place at a gate to the airport. Initial reports suggested there were two explosions, but experts now say it was just a single bombing. Seventy-two Afghans—including 28 members of the Taliban—and 13 U.S. military personnel were killed in the blasts.

The attacks were carried out by the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), a group with links to the Islamic State group.

“We weep with [Country 2] in this tragedy and condemn this latest act of terror,” says Jan Vermeer, Open Doors’ communications director for Asia. “For decades, Afghan locals have borne the brunt of extremism and war, and this latest display of terror only shows the severity of what they have had to live through on a day-to-day basis.”

A local source echoes Vermeer’s remarks. We can’t name them or give their location for security reasons, but they are in the region and are well aware of the situation faced by believers and non-believers alike in Afghanistan. “Attacks such as these have always been a reality for us,” our source says. “It’s not a matter of if, but when, and when it comes, we are almost never ready to contend with what’s before our eyes. It’s always a terrifying thought—we are afraid—but it is only by the grace and mercy of God that we are able to go on.”

The latest bombing comes amidst widespread reports that the Taliban are going door-to-door in the capital city of Kabul, looking for people whom they view as a threat to their hardline Islamic regime. They’re seeking out anyone who collaborated with the West (especially teachers) during the occupation of Afghanistan, but also members of the LGBTQ+ community and non-Muslims. Christians are in grave danger. Anybody who is exposed will be severely punished.

“Everybody is afraid, and Christians are responding differently,” Vermeer says. “Some are trying to escape the country—or have already fled—while others have decided to stay and remain secret believers. Some want to escape but can’t. Some don’t know what to do.”

Christians are also disappointed and feel abandoned by those who they had hoped would protect them—the foreign troops left and the government fled. At the same time, they knew this day was going to come. In that sense, they were prepared. But it doesn’t make it any less painful.

“The Afghan people are fighters,” our local partner shares. “Our lives have been transformed by that brief window in which we tasted freedom and had access to education. Yes, there will be those who will be paralyzed with fear, yes there will be those who will surrender, but there will always be those of us who have read, whose minds have been expanded. The borders of our thinking have been stretched.

“We will look for pathways, solutions, roots to pursue and to do things differently. We will challenge the status quo and fight for that for which not only Westerners, but also our own parents and grandparents, gave their lives to. The right to learn, the right to be, the freedom to dream and the freedom to worship; that’s what we will be battling for. Please stand with us in solidarity.”

In the midst of conflict and violence, it’s the hope of Open Doors that the Church will stand in solidarity with those who are suffering and pray for the nation. We invite you to join us. “Every fellow believer I speak to asks for only one thing,” our source shares, “Prayer. That’s genuinely the only thing they ask for. All earthly protection was taken from them.

“Only Emmanuel is left: Jesus with us.”

A prayer for Afghanistan

Father, we pray for Your embrace to be felt by Your children in Afghanistan. We lift up those who have lost loved ones in the recent bombings—we ask for your Holy Spirit to comfort them in their grief. We pray for those who have been injured in the blast; we ask that You would heal their wounds. We pray for those who want to flee, that You would grant them passage. We pray for secret believers in hiding, that You would protect them and hide them under Your wing. We pray for those who are staying where they are; Lord, grant them courage. We trust in Your grace and in Your sovereign hand. We trust that whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. May Your children in Afghanistan dwell in You, Lord. You are our refuge and our fortress, our God in whom we trust. Amen.

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