I want to plead with you today to pray for the Afghan church. We’re talking about roughly 2000 people, and all of them are Muslim converts. You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of them are under 40 years of age. The meetings have been what we would consider to be “house churches,” and the numbers have doubled over the last 20 years. Two thousand people might seem like a small number, but not when you consider the critical importance of a gospel witness within the spiritual darkness that is Afghanistan. When you understand how important the light is, you realize how much the enemy would love to snuff it out.
As the Taliban takes over the nation, all of these sisters and brothers are in harm’s way. Sharia Law is a horrific reality, and many of the house church leaders have already received threatening electronic communications. We know that these threats are not idle, as some members of the Afghan military have already been shot and beheaded. The days are brutal and the stakes are high. We’re talking about the body of Christ facing intense persecution in short order.
When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, they tortured and killed the country’s former president and hanged his body for all to see. Unaccompanied women in public could be beaten. One Afghan woman, a helpless mother, was forced to kneel between the goalposts of a stadium, where she was savagely executed. I could go on and on about what women and girls in Afghanistan are now facing, including their being forbidden to be educated and their being cut off from even basic healthcare. These past realities under Taliban rule have been documented by the U.S. Department of State. And I haven’t even mentioned the tragic realities of sex slavery, which are alive and well wherever chaos controls.
We must remember that the Taliban are driven by a version of Islamic doctrine which excludes all study and tradition not directly related to their understanding of the Qur’an. They claim that the “purity” of the Qur’an marked by the practices of Muhammad is the highest and greatest goal for which every society should strive. So their ultimate aim is to create a culture that precisely mirrors the world of the seventh century in which Islam was born. Thus, we always find where they’re in control a disparaging view of women, as well as a bitter hatred for non-Muslims (the “infidels”) and any Muslims who disagree with their exact theological interpretations (the “apostates”). National Geographic points out that Afghanistan is landlocked and surrounded by mountains, deserts, and competing empires. That makes it a perfect place for the Taliban to flourish. We see that in history, and we see that right now.
Twenty years of progress in women’s rights specifically, and in human rights generally, are poised to erode overnight. Here’s what we as Westerners have to wrap our heads around: these Taliban fighters sincerely believe that they’re engaged in a holy war for purity that’s been being waged for a millennium. They’re entirely devoted to the “restoration” of all Islamic lands stretching from Iraq to Spain. In case you’re wondering – yes – that connects Afghanistan to Palestine. These are sobering times, friends. And we can be certain that terror cells around the world will be emboldened by the present fall of Afghanistan. Lord, have mercy.
We ought to imagine ourselves trying desperately to get our small children to the airport in Kabul, only to realize that we won’t make it and that we must “shelter in place” while the Taliban assumes all power in the country. Feeling the gut-wrenching weight of that scenario might help us pray more passionately and fervently for the Afghan church, and for all Afghans. Every Afghan is God’s unique image-bearer.
And I want to remind you that what sets us apart – you and I who bear the name of Christ – is that we “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” (Matthew 5:44). That’s a tall order, but it’s ours today. We don’t just pray for the Christ-followers in Afghanistan, but we pray for those who are blinded by the darkness of Islam, and we pray for the leaders of the Taliban. You and I serve a God of miracles, and this is a great day for us to plead with Him to change the hearts of those whom we believed were beyond all possibility of change (Matthew 19:26). We must never forget that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.
All people long for freedom, but Islam – like every other false religion and every irreligious humanistic ideology – enslaves. I’ll get into trouble for saying this, but I’m saying it anyway: Islam, if actually practiced, is incompatible with human rights, democracy, and human flourishing. We can’t expect freedom to prevail without the genuine convictions which are established and upheld by the only belief system on Planet Earth which tells the truth about who God is, and the truth about who we are. And that is the gospel of Jesus (John 14:6). So, while we’re at it, we ought to pray for America too.
You are loved. Deeply, deeply loved.