Afghanistan (MNN) — Violence and bloodshed fill the streets of Afghanistan as decision-makers try to make progress. Yesterday, militants targeted people gathered in shops and markets to celebrate Afghanistan’s 100-year independence.
Reuters reports numerous bombings and rocket attacks in two eastern cities. The assaults wounded at least 72 citizens, including 20 children. It comes on the heels of an Islamic State bombing over the weekend that killed 63 and wounded nearly 200 people at a wedding ceremony in Kabul.
At the same time, ongoing talks between U.S. and Taliban leaders center on security guarantees and U.S. troop withdrawal. Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department announced plans to cut troop numbers nearly in half. Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War warn of civil war once the U.S. and NATO withdraw their respective troops.
Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says there’s a connection between recent terrorist activity and ongoing political discussions.
“These bombings are not happening in a vacuum. They’re happening in the midst of things that will affect Afghanistan’s future for the next hundred years.”
Following Christ amid never-ending violence
Rising pressure puts Afghan citizens on edge, and believers feel it, too. “They are absolutely affected by this kind of violence,” Nettleton says.
“Often, they’re targeted first by their own family members. If that doesn’t work to convince them to return to Islam, then they can be targeted by the Taliban or by ISIS.”
Fellowship with other believers and corporate worship aren’t easy to attain. Instead, a so-called church service “might be three Christians riding around in a taxi together to sing worship songs [or] talk about the Scriptures together,” Nettleton says.
“It’s not [at] a church building where you would see Afghan converts to Christianity come together and worship – that would simply be too dangerous. It’s almost an unthinkable thing.”
Prayercast describes Afghanistan as one of the “least reached” nations on earth:
There are roughly 48,000 mosques and zero church buildings. Afghanistan is one of the world’s most persecuted nations, where any belief contrary to Islam is illegal. Converting from Islam to Christianity can result in death, and believers gather and worship in secret.
How to help persecuted believers
Now that you know, how will you respond? Nettleton requests prayer. Ask the Lord to protect His followers in Afghanistan. Pray for faith and perseverance amid increasingly-troubling circumstances.
You can also support persecuted believers here through VOM USA. By giving this month, you can help provide medical care, temporary shelter, food, and other needs for Christians injured in or displaced by violent Islamist attacks.
“We need to pray for wisdom and for God’s will in all of those conversations,” Nettleton adds. “Pray for government officials who will set the power structure for what’s going to come. What is that power structure going to say about Afghans who are not Muslims? How are they going to be accepted? How are they going to be protected?”
Header image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.