Iran (MNN) — Fear rises in Iran as officials tear down camps housing Afghan refugees. Afghan refugees in Iran recently discussed their concerns with France24.
According to local sources, Iranian authorities forced thousands of Afghan refugees to return to their homeland “after coming to an agreement with the Taliban.” Iran currently hosts an estimated four million Afghan refugees, and another influx poses economic and security problems.
In a report released last week, Middle East Institute analyst Fatemeh Aman explains Iran’s vulnerability and security concerns:
Tehran has a genuine fear that Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) insurgents might infiltrate into Iran as refugees. This concern is so serious within the government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that it may have been the driving factor behind Iran’s efforts to cozy up with the Taliban since 2016. They feel the eastern borders are vulnerable and consider only the Taliban able to fight ISKP.
Meanwhile, Christians and other minorities face increasing danger in Afghanistan. On Thursday, one of the founders of the Taliban promised the return of hardline Islamic rule and punishments. Amnesty International documents the Taliban’s ongoing human rights abuses.
The situation remains fluid, and believers warn against misinformation regarding Afghan Christians.
An Afghan pastor partnering with Heart4Iran says some desperate Afghans “fake it until they make it” – out of the country, that is. “We should be very careful. Many people [go] by the name of Christian [because] they want to come out of Afghanistan. They are false believers,” the pastor says.
Afghan Christians: fact vs. fiction
A leader serving with persecution watchdog Open Doors confirms the pastor’s claims:
“There are thousands of people who realize this is one way to gain sympathy, so they are saying they are Christians, but they are not. They are claiming this to get out of the country. This puts a lot of people at risk, even those who are not believers.”
“The real believers, who are still [undiscovered] by [the Taliban and] other people, they still want to stay in Afghanistan,” the Afghan pastor says. This believer says he’s read reports describing “thousands” of Afghan Christians fleeing the country, but “I don’t think that’s all true,” he says.
Many “known” believers – Afghan Christians on a Taliban hit list – seek to escape because they are being hunted. However, those who remain “undiscovered” want to stay in the country.
Heart4Iran President Mike Ansari suggests going “straight to the source” for reliable information about Afghan Christians: “Go to people who are working on the ground with Afghans, or are dealing with refugees,” he says.
“There’s a lot of fog; there’s a lot of noise. The intentions are good, but there’s a lot of confusion.”
For example, U.S. talk show host Glenn Beck discussed evacuation efforts with CBN News, saying, “By the end of the week, we will be able to move 7,000 Christians. It’s pretty remarkable.” However, fact-checkers from Snopes Media Group question the validity of Beck’s claims in this September 4 report.
According to Open Doors, Afghanistan is the world’s second-worst persecutor of Christians. It’s challenging to know exactly how many Afghan Christians exist, but the population is likely only between 8,000 and 12,000 believers.
See our full coverage of the Afghanistan crisis to partner with credible organizations, including Heart4Iran. A new $15,000 matching grant will help their efforts go even further.
Find your place in the story
A generous partner provided Heart4Iran with a $15,000 matching grant to help meet Afghan Christians’ spiritual and emotional needs. See how it’ll be used and give securely online here.
“We would like to continue live weekly Dari shows bringing the Gospel to the wonderful people of Afghanistan and Afghans who have left the country,” Ansari says.
“A lot of Afghan refugees are going to Iran; we have ways to send Bibles to this demographic.”
Pray for the country of Afghanistan and its hurting people. Pray Afghans will find peace, strength, and the light of Christ during this tragedy. Several Afghan Christians turn to Heart4Iran weekly for counseling, prayers, and resources.
“A large number of people reaching out to us are absolutely traumatized; they have gone through a huge crisis,” Ansari says.
“We are hiring several Afghan counselors [and training] them as crisis counselors; so, when people call us, we’ll be able to guide them through a clinical and a spiritual healing process.”
Karim from Afghanistan emailed the Heart4Iran team begging for prayer on August 18. His family is stuck in hiding and they are desperate to flee to safety and find peace. He is just one of the hundreds of chats Heart4Iran received from Christ-seekers in Afghanistan, seeking peace from their fears and overall freedom in their homeland. (Photo, caption courtesy of Heart4Iran)