Tuesday, April 17, 2012

RLPB 155. Afghanistan: church, 'a smoldering wick . . .' (Isaiah 42:3 NIV)

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 155 | Wed 18 Apr 2012


By Elizabeth Kendal

On Sunday 15 April the Haqqani network launched the Taliban's 'Spring Offensive' in Afghanistan. The Haqqani are an ethnic Pashtun network based in Pakistan's tribal border regions with ties to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In Mahmud-i-Raqi, the capital of the eastern Kapisa Province, the city's military chief was assassinated. Then at about 1.30pm simultaneous attacks were launched in the capital, Kabul, and three other major cities. The US & NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is finalising plans for a transition to Afghan security control, has belittled the strikes as 'largely ineffective'. However, the insurgents have demonstrated their ability to stage complex operations inside Kabul's most secure areas. 'This is just the beginning,' declared Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who boasted that the insurgents 'can attack anywhere we want'.

In Kabul the insurgents executed a sophisticated, well-rehearsed operation. They stormed and occupied an unfinished tower-block in the central diplomatic area of Wazir Akbar Khan, making it their base. From there they launched gun-battles and suicide attacks while firing rocket-propelled grenades into the German, British, US and Japanese embassies. Before long, the newly built Kabul Star Hotel was engulfed in flames. Camp Eggers, the headquarters of the ISAF, came under rocket attack, while an attack on the Presidential Palace was foiled. On the western side of town, rockets were fired at the Russian Embassy and the Afghan Parliament. When militants subsequently launched a full-scale assault on the parliament they were fought off by some of the MPs who, being former warlords and military men, carry their own weapons. Camp Warehouse, the ISAF base on the Jalalabad Rd, was attacked with mortars. Governors' offices, police training facilities and military bases were attacked in Jalalabad to the east, at Pul-e-Alam in Logar Province and Gardez in Paktya Province to the south. An attack in the northern city of Kundoz was foiled.


Back in May 2010 a privately-run Afghan television station, Noorin TV, broadcast video footage reportedly showing Afghani converts being baptised and participating in Christian worship. Angry Muslims protested, demanding the expulsion of foreign 'missionaries'. MPs called for the Afghan converts to be murdered or publicly executed as apostates. To appease the Islamic fundamentalists President Karzai ordered that measures be taken to prevent apostasy. More than 20 Afghan Christians were subsequently arrested and tortured, triggering a retreat underground and an exodus to India and beyond. (See RLPB 059 and RLPB 062)

In January 2012 Open Doors CEO Carl Moeller wrote, ' . . . after the nationally televised exposure of Afghan Christians on the internet, it became widely known that Afghan Christians actually exist. Though many were angry about this revelation, others started to ask questions and began to seek. In recent years a number of well-educated and skilled Afghanis have become believers and begun participating in underground Christian activities.' [This was confirmed by Mohabat News in a 27 March report which added that even some MPs had embraced Christianity.] 'Although the complete lack of religious freedom for Afghan Christians makes gatherings of believers dangerous and difficult,' continues Moeller, 'family and friend groups have started to meet together. There is a growing awareness among Afghan believers that they are not alone.'

The principal gospel witness and Bible teaching comes via Afghan Christian radio, satellite TV and internet ministries (see Afghan Christian media). The Afghan Church might be very small in number and profoundly imperilled, but God has promised: 'A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:3 NIV)'


* give his profoundly imperilled Church refuge, security and comfort in the shadow of his wings until the storms of destruction pass by. (Psalm 57:1b ESV.)

* prepare the hearts of the longsuffering Afghanis and empower every word of gospel witness from courageous local believers and from radio, satellite and internet ministries, so that the harvest might be a hundredfold (Matthew 13:8).

* meet the needs of all Afghan gospel ministries for funding, equipment and workers (Psalm 24:7).

* frustrate the plots of those who would like to eradicate the Church (Psalm 146:9) and direct the government to see that without religious freedom Afghanistan will never recover (Proverbs 21:1).


On 15 April Islamic militants attacked Kabul and three other major cities. After occupying a building in Kabul's most secure sector, attacks were launched against the German, British, US, Japanese and Russian Embassies, as well as against government facilities and military bases. Amidst all this,the Church in Afghanistan, though very small and 'underground', is a reality and is growing. A massive crackdown followed TV scenes of Afghani converts participating in baptisms and worship in May 2010. This triggered an exodus of some Christians as well as a growing awareness of and interest in Christianity. It is reported some members of Kabul's influential elite have since become Christians. Christian radio, satellite TV and internet ministries are the principal means of outreach and teaching. Please pray for the Church in Afghanistan.