Ever since the poorly executed withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan ended on August 30, 2021, the situation for those remaining in the troubled country has continued to worsen. Evidence of tyranny abounds.
Last fall, a student from Afghanistan at Calvin University described how her family faced violence because they had helped Americans and because they belong to an ethnic minority. Simply being from one of these groups, writes Freshta Tori Jan, can mean “torture and death by the Taliban, who have recently taken complete control of Afghanistan. Some of my own friends and family were recently slaughtered, beheaded and crucified.”
Whether for religious or other reasons, the Islamist Taliban threatens the life and liberty of many Afghans. The World Watch List, an annual report from Open Doors rating the countries where Christians face the greatest threats, this year ranked Afghanistan as the most dangerous nation, ahead of North Korea, which had led the rankings for nearly 20 years. (Read TGC’s synopsis.) According to the report, “It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. . . . Either they have to flee the country or they will be killed.”
Such atrocities against the Afghan people may be hard for Christians in the West to comprehend. But we have meaningful opportunities to care for Afghans, both for believers and for those who don’t yet know Christ.
Faithful Responses to Evil
What can Christians do in the face of such violence and evil? First, as the Open Doors report reminds us, we have the responsibility to pray. Their report gives guidance for praying through the list of the top 50 nations where Christians face the greatest threats. John Calvin, following the lead of the church fathers, once described prayer as the “chief exercise” of faith. In a culture that often derisively dismisses “thoughts and prayers,” true spiritual prayer is the Christian’s primary means of responding faithfully to God’s call.
Our work as Christians must begin (and continue) with prayer, but it need not stop there when we have additional means at our disposal. Groups like Open Doors that advocate for religious liberty and spotlight religious persecution do tremendous work to raise awareness of the dangers religious minorities face in many places around the world.
We have meaningful opportunities to care for Afghans, both for believers and those who do not yet know Christ.
Similarly, 21Wilberforce has partnered with Genocide Watch and the Loeb Institute at George Washington University to put together the Global Religious Freedom Data Spectrum, a comprehensive list of different indices and rankings of global religious liberty. Here again, across the 13 different rankings the project surveys (including the Open Doors World Watch List), Afghanistan stands out as an exceptionally oppressive regime in a world that’s so often unfriendly to free religious exercise.
The collapse of relative security and stability in Afghanistan over the last six months is due in large part to decisions made by national governments, especially the United States. Despite warnings about the effects that such a withdrawal would have on those who stayed behind, the Biden administration pushed through a quick and thorough exit. While the wisdom of these policies will continue to be debated, the chaos and human suffering seen in images and videos at Bagram Air Base should haunt the consciences of all Americans.
Besides praying, becoming more informed, and sharing news about the state of religious liberty in the world, Christians can advocate for better governmental policy, acting on their own or through nonprofits, charities, and aid groups.
Doing Good to All
For Christians, as the apostle Paul puts it, “as we have opportunity,” we are to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). We should be especially concerned about the plight of our fellow Christians in Afghanistan who face extreme persecution. There are great efforts to help relocate refugees from Afghanistan that Christians can support.
Christians in particular have opened their wallets, their hearts, and even their homes to refugee families fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan.
Even for those who don’t share allegiance to Christ, however, we can advocate for more humane treatment and liberation from the oppression of the Taliban. There are those who have supported America in spirit and in deed over the last 20 years who now face reprisal from the Taliban. America and American Christians should not forget them or ignore the dire danger they face.
Many have felt called to directly help those who are in such distress. Some of these volunteers are not motivated by any explicit faith commitment—they’re simply responding to a humanitarian crisis. The National Immigration Forum, for instance, documents a wide variety of actions aiding Afghan refugees: “From pizza parties to business coalitions, these aren’t rare stories. Instead, they illustrate the incredible scope of support for Afghans, offering a reminder of our capacity to welcome.”
Christians in particular have opened their wallets, their hearts, and even their homes to refugee families fleeing the chaos in Afghanistan. Welcome Families is an initiative led by Debra Smith, who has spent significant time in Afghanistan and has a special regard for the Afghan people. Smith, motivated by the biblical themes of sojourning and hospitality, started Welcome Families as an effort to match Afghan refugees with host families who will befriend them and help them adjust to life in a radically new setting.
Love Without Distinction
We certainly owe those who are most closely connected to us the most regard. We are to do good, as Paul reminds us, as we have opportunity. But as John Calvin also notes, “We ought to embrace the whole human race without exception in a single feeling of love; here there is no distinction between barbarian and Greek, worthy and unworthy, friend and enemy, since all should be contemplated in God, not in themselves.”
Surely those who are suffering under the Taliban, whether Christian or not, are appropriate objects of our prayer and our compassion and, where we can give it, our aid as well.