“It’s a heartbreaking day for the citizens of Afghanistan and an even dangerous time to be a Christian,” read a statement from the field director of Open Doors in Asia, a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians.
“It’s an uncertain situation for the whole country, not just for secret believers,” the statement added.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of May 21, about 100,000 people had been displaced by conflict in Afghanistan this year. That figure has since more than doubled.
Prior to the Taliban takeover, Open Doors ranked Afghanistan second on its World Watch List on persecution “only very slightly less oppressive than in North Korea.”
The pontifical agency Aid to the Church in Need raised similar concerns.
“Aid to the Church in Need encourages the international community to raise a voice in protection of human rights for all citizens of Afghanistan, especially considering that we estimate that religious freedom will be particularly under threat,” said Thomas Heine-Geldern, the executive president of ACN.
Heine-Geldern further called for people to pray “during this profoundly troubling time in the history of Afghanistan.”
With the Taliban regaining control of Afghanistan, and changing the name of the country to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Heine-Geldern said, “we can expect that Sunni Islam will be the official religion, Sharia law will be reimposed, and hard-won freedoms for human rights, including a relative measure of religious freedom, over the last 20 years will be revoked.”
ACN has, for the last 22 years, published an annual Religious Freedom Report. Afghanistan “has always been among the countries that most violates this fundamental right,” said Heine-Geldern, particularly in the last three years.
“Our analysis, unfortunately, does not leave much room for hope” of improvement on this front, he explained. “All those who do not espouse the extreme Islamist views of the Taliban are at risk, even moderate Sunni.”
All religious minorities, including followers of other Islamic sects, “will suffer even greater oppression.”
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“This is a huge setback for all human rights, and especially for religious freedom in the country,” he said.
Heine-Geldern expressed further concern that the number of countries who have seemingly accepted the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will “not only legitimize the Taliban, but also embolden authoritarian regimes all over the world, particularly in the region.”
“International recognition of the Taliban will also act as a magnet for smaller radical Islamic groups, creating a new constellation of religious terrorist factions that could supplant historic formations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State,” he said, adding that this would worsen the already-oppressive situation for religious minorities in the area.
Heine-Geldern said that the regime change has sparked “countless thorny diplomatic questions,” regarding the state of human rights in Afghanistan.
“Will there be a response from the Taliban on any human rights claims without formal channels,” he asked. “The fact that most Western embassies are closing, and international observers are leaving, like they did in Syria in 2011, is not a good omen.”
A Jesuit priest who was held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2014 laid blame at the international community for the current political crisis in the country.