I don’t often reprint an article in full that I have recently read. But I think you will enjoy this one. Half way through you will see the word IsikAbla. Isik was raised a Muslim and married a Muslim in Turkey. Both experiences were abusive. She fled this abuse and arrived in America only to start life over again. She became a Christian and started a TV-internet-social Media ministry to Muslim countries that now reaches millions. She has six million followers on Facebook. So the figures she quotes, though astounding, are accurate.
“A country with 48,000 mosques and not one church building; ranked #3 (behind North Korea and Somalia) on Open Door’s World Watch List of countries where Christian persecution is most severe, is listed by Operation World as the country with the second fastest church growth in the world. That country is Afghanistan.
Not to diminish this fact, but one reason the growth rate appears high is because the evangelical population is so small to begin with. Still, this trend is confirmed by all of our ministry partners working with Afghans both inside and outside the country. There is, without a doubt, a significant, identifiable work of God, such as never before, taking place among Afghans today.
Like in the days of the Apostles where Paul, who was zealous for the Law and guilty of killing and imprisoning Christians was shown grace and had a miraculous conversion where the Lord appeared to him, the same God is at work in Afghanistan. There are mullahs who have come to Christ through supernatural means who have hundreds of followers. Some former Taliban members who have found forgiveness and new life in Christ are staring death in the face and sharing the Lord with other Taliban fighters and leaders.
One surprising statistic surfaced from IsikAbla’s TV, Internet, and social media ministry at the end of 2017. The #1 city worldwide for her Facebook engagements (reactions, comments, and shares) was Kabul, Afghanistan with 182,781. Kabul also ranked #2 in the list of top cities for Facebook followers (behind Cairo) with 315,840.
This figure is even more suggestive of the hunger for the truth among Afghans in that social media users account for only 9% of Afghanistan’s 34 million people, and that access and use of the Internet reaches only about 12% of the population. Eighty percent of users are 18-30 years old.*
Work among Afghan refugees
Our ministry partners also report a significant openness and response to the gospel among Afghan refugees in Iran and Turkey. In an article from Relief Web dated Feb. 7, 2018, it was reported that:
“Four decades of conflict in Afghanistan has led to massive displacement of Afghans across the surrounding sub-region. Iran alone has received around three million Afghan refugees. Close to one million of these have been registered by the government and are thus, afforded protection and are eligible for assistance. However up to two million remain un-documented and therefore have neither formal legal status nor access to assistance. Up to 800,000 of these undocumented refugees are considered to be extremely vulnerable.”
Typically, Iranians are highly educated; Afghans are not. Many Iranians look down on Afghans and treat them badly. But in today’s Persian-speaking church inside Iran you not only see many Afghans coming to Christ, but incredibly, serving alongside Iranians.
Iranian Christians have sought out these Afghan refugees to care for them. The reason they are coming to Christ, as one Afghan put it, is because “Iranians never cared for us, but you (Iranians) have loved us. That is what attracted us to Christ.”
About 70% of the Afghan population speak and understand Afghan Persian (Dari). Thus Iranian believers have also been instrumental in exposing Afghans to modern day, understandable translations of the Scripture that has been a great help in evangelism and discipleship.
Extraordinary results are being seen in Turkey as well, where Iranian refugees have reached out to the Afghan refugees. Some Afghan converts are now pastoring churches and leading many to Christ. One couple alone has led more than 100 people to Christ. Another influence in the move of God inside Afghanistan has been that many of these refugee converts are communicating with their relatives and friends at home. They tell them that they are following the wrong God, then lead them to Christ and disciple them from outside the country.
Major factors influencing the this move of God among Afghans
For decades there have been Christians and groups from around the world praying for Afghanistan. Finally, we are seeing the stony ground being cleared so that there is soft soil where the seeds of the Word of God are being planted in people’s hearts. Fruit is beginning to be seen.
Still, many Afghan converts are fearful and lead dangerous lives. Converts must be careful about sharing their faith to avoid persecution by the Islamists, the police, and even their own family members and neighbors. In the village areas where conversion to Christianity is more noticeable and brings shame to families, converts suffer more persecution than in Kabul or the bigger cities. Continue to pray that the breakthroughs we are seeing increase until a full harvest is reaped.
- The Blood of Martyrs
Prior to 9/11/2001 many Afghans–tired of war and conflict and fearful of the Taliban who came into power in 1996–fled the country. After 9/11 when the American forces came in and the Taliban were routed and defeated, many Afghans returned with hope and optimism for their country. People believed they had a chance for a new future after decades of war and fighting.
Along with those returning came expats, including a number of Christian missionaries. This started in 2002. A number of Christians came in under the umbrella of various aid and medical groups until 2007-2008 when their numbers began to dwindle. By 2014 most had stopped coming.
Many lives had been lost. A conservative estimate is that around 30-40 missionaries, as well as Afghan converts, were martyred. But an indigenous work, springing from the blood of those martyrs began, and is now spreading.
- Fear, War, and Insecurity
Afghanistan has been a war-torn country for decades that has reduced it to ruin and privation. It has survived under the influence and control of many outside powers, including the British, the Soviet Union, and more recently, Western powers. Though the Taliban (which at one time controlled 90% of the country) were beaten back by U.S. and coalition forces, they, along with ISIS continue to be menacing and threatening forces–killing and terrorizing (sometimes innocent children) just to incite fear, subjugation and compliance. Muslims killing other Muslims has also been a factor contributing to the crumbling respect for Islam and the growing openness to alternative beliefs, such as Christianity.
With 40% unemployment, youth and young families see little hope for a future in Afghanistan. Many young men resort to fighting for the Taliban or ISIS just to collect a paycheck. But the depression and despair living in a poor society with little opportunity has made Afghans more open to the good news of a God who loves them, has a purpose for their lives, and can give them hope.
Pray: for this indigenous work of God taking place among the Afghan people.
Pray: Let’s rejoice in the growth of His church and pray for the new believers to be protected, to grow in maturity, and to be effective in outreach to others.
Pray: Also, join our brothers and sisters in Christ in praying for His peace for their war-torn land.