The Standard August 26, 2021
Many of us never had heard of Al-Qaeda until September 11, 2001. After the terrorist attacks in the United States, we learned that this group of radical extremists was based in Afghanistan and operated training camps there. Osama bin Laden and other terrorists found a safe haven and lived openly in that country with the support of another extremist group. The Taliban, which holds to a radical and harsh interpretation of Sunni Islam, ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001. They seized power after the Soviet occupation of the country and after a civil war, and hoped to institute a Sunni Islamic theocratic state.
During their years in power, the Taliban tried to force their version of Sharia law on everyone. Women and girls were not allowed to attend school or to work outside of the home and had to be fully covered in burqas and escorted by men while in public. The rights of women under this cruel and brutal regime were practically nonexistent. Thieves had their hands cut off and adulterers were stoned. There were beatings, amputations, and public executions. Ethnic minorities and people of other faiths were persecuted or even massacred.
Experts say that it is almost impossible for most of us in the West to understand the tribalism in Afghanistan. Nicknamed “the Graveyard of Empires,” Afghanistan has historically been difficult to govern. The rugged terrain of this landlocked country with some of world’s tallest mountains contributes to this.
Open Doors’ World Watch List shows Afghanistan as the second worst persecutor of Christians, second only to North Korea. Although it is an extremely dangerous place for people of minority faiths, the Holy Spirit will not be squelched. A recent Christianity Today article notes, “According to a recent report from the US Agency for International Development, there are about 140 nongovernment charity organizations, many of them Christian, doing aid work in Afghanistan. There are also another dozen UN organizations. They are providing food, medical care, cash transfers, education, and tools and seed for farmers. They are encouraging music, art, literature, and sports. In the midst of war and conflict, they have encouraged community and civil society.” These Christians have taken the words of The Great Commission to heart. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
No matter what our political views, let’s join together in prayer for Afghanistan in the midst of this dire humanitarian crisis.
Pray for the safety and protection of those in Afghanistan.
Pray for the women and girls.
Pray for the ethnic and social minorities.
Pray for the military personnel trying to maintain peace.
Pray for those at the airport in Kabul and those trying to get there. Pray for discernment for those contemplating leaving.
Pray for international aid workers who choose to stay in the country.
Pray for Christians in Afghanistan to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit and to remember the promises of Jesus. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16: 33)
Pray for the leaders of different nations to make the best, most wise decisions regarding the Middle East.
Pray for the Taliban, for their hearts to be changed. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I [Jesus] tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.’” (Matthew 5:43-45a)