How are Christians in Afghanistan vulnerable and targeted?
Basically, they are vulnerable because if they are found out to be believers, then immediately they are considered traitors, enemies of the state, enemies of their tribe and community. Punishment for that is death. That’s the overarching reality.
In September, certain lists had gone around about who believers could be, especially in areas within the country where many were foreign-educated. Those lists became available to the Taliban somehow, and these [Christians] are the ones who are being hunted down.
Believers are also vulnerable because they are absolutely hated; with the current situation, they can’t get medical care, they can’t go shopping, they can’t even go and have a baby under normal conditions. In a country like Afghanistan, medical care is paid for by a religious tax, and once people learn someone has turned away from Islam, then they have no right to access that service.
Believers in Afghanistan are being hunted and their names are known to the Taliban. This is a fact.
Why do some Christians stay in the country and others flee? What was the tipping point when some Christians decided they needed to leave?
The tipping point for leaving is family; the tipping point for staying is commitment. We’ve seen it with the Christians we’re in contact with. For those who are leaving, they want to be reunited with their family who have also left, or to protect their children. Those who are choosing to stay specifically say they’re staying because of the work God began.
What particular challenges do Christian refugees face?
Displacement from their families. Clans in Afghanistan are used to traveling together; if they’re not nomadic, they’re used to staying and operating in a space. To be in an environment completely alien to them is an absolute challenge.
Second is language, and third is healthcare. Many of the refugees are in critical healthcare situations and in need of nourishment and warmth. They need shelter. Refugees are already displaced from their environment, but for Christian refugees, they have also lost their networks. They lost their trusted networks of people they can share their faith with.
What challenges do Afghan Christians who stay behind face? What conditions do they face in their daily lives?
Christians who stayed behind can’t go out. At this moment, they’re in hiding.
When children go out, they could easily notice and tell others something like, “Our father doesn’t say this many prayers,” or, “We have a different book in the house.” Christians must live with caution. Towns are in lockdown because of the Taliban. The Taliban are shutting down communities to find people who are hostile to their cause. They lock down motorways and initiate blackouts.
Before, in the public sphere, believers could see each other. They may not have been able to pray in public spaces, but they could meet and go elsewhere. Now, with the new government, even those few, precious treasures have been taken away.