Afghanistan (MNN) — The Taliban blitz in Afghanistan has Western leaders and Christian advocates on edge. See our full Afghanistan coverage here.
“The Taliban has been ‘waiting in the wings’ these last 20 years, ever since they were pushed out of power. Now it seems within a few weeks they will control the entire country,” Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says.
“It is not good news for our Christian brothers and sisters. It’s not good news for anybody in Afghanistan.”
In a matter of days, the Taliban quickly gained control of Afghanistan’s second-and third-largest cities, giving it momentum and territorial strength. By Friday, only three towns remained under government control, and one was under siege. The United Nations warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe as foreign diplomats and citizens alike flooded out of the country.
Should the Afghan government surrender control – a seemingly inevitable event – believers know what to expect under Taliban rule. The terrorists controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. They didn’t wait long to “set the tone.” The United States Embassy in Kabul announced reports of the Taliban executing some surrendering Afghan troops last week.
“We don’t have to wonder what they’re going to do. We’ve seen it,” Nettleton says.
“We know about the oppression of girls; they provided a haven for Osama bin Laden; Christians were persecuted under the Taliban.”
Open Doors has ranked Afghanistan as the world’s second-worst persecutor of Christians for years. That isn’t likely to change whether the Taliban takes over or not. Learn more about the dangers Afghan Christians face.
“It won’t be worse in the level of persecution, but I think it will be worse in terms of the numbers because there are more Christians in Afghanistan than there were 20 years ago,” Nettleton says.
“We know there are followers of Jesus Christ in every single province of Afghanistan.”
Afghan believers face oppression and danger whether foreign troops have a presence in the country or not. However, the absence of aid organizations and advocates presents a new set of problems.
“Most foreigners have left the country; NGO workers, others had to leave in the face of this advance of the Taliban. That poses some [logistical] challenges of delivering aid, of being there to help [believers] and the Afghan people,” Nettleton says.
“Right now, a lot of what we can do is pray for our brothers and sisters because the situation is so fluid and because the delivery of aid on the ground is so fraught with danger.”
How to pray
Pray for wisdom for Afghan believers deciding whether to stay in their country or flee. “It is absolutely crucial that we lift them up in prayer,” Nettleton says.
VOM helps believers who want to relocate, but that isn’t an option for everyone. “Our contacts in Afghanistan heard directly from some Christians who are saying, ‘Listen, God has placed us here; He will sustain us, He will get us through this,’” Nettleton says.
“They are choosing to stay, to be a lighthouse [and] a minister of the Gospel, despite what they know is coming.”
Pray for discernment and God’s protection over believers, whether they choose to go or stay. Pray also for Gospel opportunities “in a time when the Afghan people are open to hearing the Word of God,” Nettleton requests.
“We’ve heard reports of an openness among Muslims who are watching what the Taliban is doing. Remember, the Taliban says, ‘We are the best Muslims, we are following Muhammad the way he should be followed,’ and so when they come in, and there is violence and abuse of women, people look at that and say, ‘Wait a minute, if that’s what the best Muslims do, what other teachings are out there?’”
Header image depicts a young Afghan girl receiving medical attention from a U.S. Medical Coreman on March 10, 2020. Marines were assisting the Afghan National Army as they delivered medical care and supplies to a village in Farah province. This is one example of the support leaving Afghanistan when foreign forces complete their withdrawal. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pilch/Flickr/CC2.0)