Afghanistan

“Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” Genesis 16:11-12

The Land of War

No words can better describe the land of Afghanistan. Since 500 BC, men have fought, bled, and died in the land of Afghanistan. The terrors of war have continued unabated for 2500 years. The results of these prolonged conflicts: a barren, impoverished land filled with disease and heartache. The area has seen numerous international invaders—Persian, Mongolian, and Indian. It has endured the armies of Great Britain and the Soviet Union. Domestic strife and civil war have filled the years between foreign conflicts.

Afghanistan has recently been catapulted into the forefront of the news and media. The ongoing struggle to oust the Taliban is not new. The present conflict has been ravishing Afghanistan since 1994. Were it not for the attacks of September 11th, most Americans would know little and care less of the internal affairs of Afghanistan. This country may seem mysterious to us because we know so little about it, yet Afghanistan is a key country in middle Asia. Afghanistan is an important crossroads linking the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Indian sub-continent. Although mountainous and inhospitable, Afghanistan occupies a pivotal place in world geography and world history. Its location has helped draw a diversity of cultures, religions and influences to the region, but Christianity is not one of them.

How will these events affect the unreached peoples of Afghanistan? Will an alliance or some new form of government open up ways to minister the gospel to these unreached peoples? Will there be laborers who are ready and willing to step forward and go into this inhospitable climate? Who will count the cost to save the souls for whom Christ died?

Certainly all these events have call for the Christian community worldwide to pray for this needy and spiritually dark country. Only the living Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can free these people from the oppression and bondage they suffer at the hands of a cruel taskmaster—the devil himself. Oh, for prayer warriors to stand in the gap for the war-torn land of Afghanistan.

The Hidden People

The people of Afghanistan truly are diverse. The largest group is the Pushtun people. The Pushtuns comprise an approximate 38% of the population. They are a group of 60 or more clans that speak the Pashtu language. Each clan occupies a distinct area of Afghanistan. Tajiks from Tajikistan, Uzbeks from Uzbekistan, and Turkmen from Turkmenistan constitute an additional third of the population. The last major people group is the Hazara people. They account for another 20% of Afghans. The many different people groups mean that there are many different languages. Several Turkic tongues, a Afghan dialect of Persian, and 30 minor languages are spoken, besides the most common Pashtu.

Almost the entire population is Muslim. As such, the religion of Islam has played a central role in unifying the population. Sunni Islam is the accepted denomination of the Taliban. It is a strict, harsh faith that demands death or imprisonment for the most minor violations. Yet, as we compare Sunni Islam with the Qur’an, it seems to hold true to its teaching. Contrary to what is being broadcast by the media, the Taliban and Sunni Islam are both being faithful to the teachings of Muhammad.

Perhaps if Christians held to the teachings of Jesus Christ like the Sunni Muslims hold to the teachings of Muhammad, there would be a greater heart for evangelism among us. The “extreme” faith of the Taliban party has caused it to be labeled a regime, and its members are labeled radicals. Pause to reflect on Christ’s words “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for My Name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent Me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” (John 15:18–22)

The Taliban party doesn’t like gray. They want things totally Islam or not at all. We, as Christians, should not consider the Taliban as abnormal, strange, or radical. Rather, when we look at the Taliban, we should be encouraged to separate ourselves from sin and live a holy life before God. A nominal Muslim who comes into contact with a Sunni Muslim must make a choice. He can no longer avoid the issue. He cannot claim to be a true Muslim and continue to live as he is. He must either reject the Qur’an, or become a Sunni. Is that the affect we have on the nominal Christians when we meet them? Do we leave no cloak for sin?

The standards of living are very poor in Afghanistan. The population has a life expectancy at birth of 47 years. The population of the United States, by contrast, has a life expectancy of 70 years. Afghanistan has an infant mortality rate of 144 deaths per 1,000 live births. The United States has an infant mortality rate of 6.5 deaths for every 1000 live births.

In terms of literacy, 15% of the female population and 48% of the male population, age 15 and over, can read and write. The ongoing civil war, as well as the legacy of war, conflict, and instability stretching back many decades, not to mention a drought that has persisted for years, has collectively resulted in a country characterized by great poverty and deficient living conditions.

Spiritually, Afghanistan is even worse. The Afghan people are considered one of the most unreached countries in the world. Some feel that it may be the least evangelized nation. There is approximately one Christian for every 10,000 Afghans. The closest estimates report 2,600 Christians in the entire country, and while there are 48,000 mosques in Afghanistan, there is not one church building! There are no missions on record in Afghanistan. Twenty-three people groups live in this land, and many are without a single book of the Bible!

Afghanistan has always been a difficult country for missionaries to work in. It has been even more so recently due to government restrictions. Only a few times have brief windows of opportunity opened up to reach the Afghans, and these were related to a physical need. Any “workers” were closely monitored. For some years, a small group of Christians cared for the blind in Kabul. Out of this work, some became believers. How ironic that in a country of great spiritual darkness, the physically blind were the first to see the true light. The new believers began small church cells. Restrictions made things difficult for these young believers. They tried to maintain a low profile in their meetings, but they were eventually found out and persecuted. When the long-time king Mohammed Zahir Shah was deposed in 1973 by a communist led coup, the missionaries were forced to leave, and the little flock was left to fend for itself.

Truly, the needs are great. Although Afghanistan has been a land closed to the Gospel for centuries, current events may quickly change that. Today, the Afghan people are seeing Allah fail them. Prayers that he would defeat the foes that are invading their land have been unanswered. The Afghans will be open to hearing of the Power that brought this about. They will be open to finding the God that was stronger than Allah.

In the days following World War II, General Douglas MacArthur called for 1,000 missionaries and 1 million Bibles to be sent to Japan. He saw that the country was open to receive what the Allied countries would give them. Their god, the emperor, had been destroyed, and they were interested in learning of the Power that had defeated them. When the call came from Japan, the Christians of America failed to capitalize on the open door. The god that the Japanese saw in the Allied countries was the god of materialism.

Earlier this year, eight foreign missionaries were working in Afghanistan, trying to meet the physical needs of the poor. They passed out tracts in the hope of reaching some lost souls. On August 5, 2001, the Taliban arrested these international aid workers on charges of spreading Christianity. This offense is punishable by death under the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic law. On September 8, the Taliban opened a trial against these foreign aid workers who were accused of promoting. Days later: September 11 and the attacks in the United States—a date that will forever be etched in our memories. Events unfolded rapidly after that, and once again, there was an invasion of Afghanistan.

When the Taliban retreated from Kabul, they took the eight Christian prisoners with them. In a small town on the way, the missionaries were suddenly locked into a shipping container. A gun battle ensued, and when it was all over, they were freed. They publicly thanked God for sustaining them during their three months in an Afghan prison, and they attributed their release to the prayer of Christian brothers and sisters worldwide. There was no hint of bitterness, only joy. They spoke of returning to Afghanistan again to work among the needy.

These missionaries believe that God will open a window of opportunity to reach Afghanistan for Christ. If and when are still unknown, but they believe it will happen. The prayers of God’s saints are lodged in His heart for all eternity, and surely He desires that the many unreached peoples of Afghanistan hear the gospel. God has His timing. When the doors of Afghanistan swing open, and the people of that country are open to hear, will we send the light? A more startling thought—will there be any laborers ready to answer His beckoning call?


Facts and Figures

Region Asia
Population 25,838,797.00 (July 2000 Estimate)
Area Total 652,000.00 km2
Area Land 652,000.00 km2
Coast Line 0 km (Landlocked)
Capital Kabul
Boundaries
Pakistan 2,430 km
Tajikistan 1,206 km
Iran 936 km
Turkmenistan 744 km
Uzbekistan 137 km
China 76 km
Currency 1 afghani (AF) = 100 puls
Holiday Independence Day, August 19
Climate arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
Average Daily Temperature in Kabul
January 2.8°C / 27°F
July 24.4°C / 76°F
Annual Rainfall 330.2mm / 13”
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