People came to Afghanistan very soon after the Tower of Babel. Empires then came and went in succession over several millennia as this mountainous land was a major migration and trade corridor from the Middle East to Asia. The Persians then came to dominate the region and with them came the religion of Zoroastrianism. Most Afghans can trace their demographic roots to the Persians and this is reflected in the main language, Pashtun. In between the two Persian empires, the religions and cultures of South Asian Hinduism and Buddhism gained influence. Then came the brief Greek occupation and Greek settlement under Alexander around 330BC. I was surprised to see some Greek archaeological remains recently in the New Delhi museum. During this entire era Afghanistan played a central role in the booming Silk Road trade between Europe and China. Because of the 70 year enslavement of the Jews in Babylon it was also common to see Jewish traders active on the Silk Road in Afghanistan in the millennia before Christ.
In the Christian era there came mass destruction at the hands of the Mongols, followed by the Muslim conquest. In 1282AD Ahmed Teduker assumed the Afghan throne and began the country’s switch to Islam, a situation that prevails to this day. From the late Middle Ages, Afghanistan came under the rule of the mighty Moghul emperors based in Delhi, India, but who originated in Afghanistan a few generations earlier. With the break-up of that empire, and the unsuccessful multiple attempts by the British to conquer Afghanistan, it was then ruled by a king until the 1970’s and was a reasonably stable and prosperous nation. Then it went through a bloodless coup. In 1978 the Russian Communists took advantage of this instability and invaded and the country has been unstable and suffering ever since.
With the expulsion of the Russians, Afghanistan came under the rule of radical Islamists called the Taliban. It is impossible to understand their hold on the country and the violence that has engulfed the nation since the 1970’s unless you appreciate the deep, violent and austere tribal nature of primitive Pashtun social structures. This is the largest medieval tribal nation on earth which makes it very fertile ground for radical Islam!
With 37 million people, Afghanistan is now a desperately poor and suffering country with an average income of 1% of the USA. Almost 60% of people are under 20 years of age and life expectancy is a tragic 44 years. However, a new generation has now grown up without the repression of the Taliban and they long for freedom and opportunity. Over 4 million refugees have now returned to their homeland. With the re-conquest of the country by the Taliban we are going to see an interesting clash between this new generation and the Islamic hardliners. Only 15% of Afghanistan is connected to the internet, but 50% have mobile phones. The young are now connected to the outside world and long for freedoms undreamed of by their parents.
The form of Islam practiced here by the new Islamist government is severe and repressive, especially for women. Stiff punishments apply for anyone leaving Islam and this begins with total rejection from family. However God is moving in an unprecedented way as you will see from the list below. This is because wherever Islam has become violent and repressive in recent years there seems to be a sudden growth in those coming to Christ.
3. True Christianity
Some Silk Road Jews from what is now far western Afghanistan were probably present at the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). They came from the Parthian Empire, so the Gospel could have arrived in Afghanistan a few months after that momentous day. Church tradition says that both Bartholomew and Thomas went to Afghanistan to share the Good News. The historian Bardaison, writing in 196AD, speaks of Christians throughout Parthia. By 250AD there were nine city-based bishops in modern-day Afghanistan. However, with the arrival of Islam the church went into a slow decline until it was completely wiped out some centuries later by the viciousness of the Mongol warlord Timur when some 7 million Central Asian Christians were slaughtered in just two decades.
Today however there is a new dawn. The church in Afghanistan is exploding. Decades of suffering and the prayers of the saints are combining to destroy the Satanic strongholds that have chained these peoples for millennia. Satan’s iron grip on Afghanistan is slipping! Here are some of the amazing stories coming out of the country at the moment:
- The government now warns that “Christianity has obtained a special place not only among youth, but also among various layers in society”.
- A Farsi news service reported recently that high ranking members of society are now becoming Christians
- House churches that know how get inside the culture are multiplying.
- Thousands of Afghans who fled to Iran and Europe (start reading half way down this link to see what amazing things are happening in Germany) have become Christians. The Iranian church embraced the Afghans while Iranians as a whole hated their presence.
- Last, and perhaps most importantly, Isik Abla Ministries report that they had 182,000 thousand active Facebook followers in Kabul alone at the end of 2017. That’s nearly 4% of all internet users in the country actively absorbing Christian teaching.
Something BIG is happening and there is nothing the new Taliban government can do about it. Lets join our prayers to those of thousands of others to see the harvest multiply as millions of Afghans reject the stupidity of Islamic fundamentalism for the Love and freedom of Christ.