OVERVIEW: The gospel of Christ reached Afghanistan by the second century, but today there are no physical church buildings in Afghanistan. This ancient Central Asian country is full of cultural and religious opposition to the gospel that, along with the serious lack of security, continues to greatly challenge all missions efforts. Though Christian faith was once more prominent in the country, most Afghans today have never heard the gospel, do not know a Christian and have been raised since birth to pursue an unquestioned allegiance to Muhammad’s teachings. Radical Islam paired with radical, tribal political ideologies makes it a very difficult arena for Christian presence and activity. Indigenous, near-culture Persian and expatriate believers are using every possible opportunity to see believers gathered, discipled and integrated into house churches. A unique unity exists among Christians laboring for the gospel in Afghanistan. Church growth has been slow among the more than 50 unique people groups. However, there is significant Christian growth among the Hazara people, with some also coming to Christ among the other people groups.
MAJOR RELIGION: Afghanistan is 99.8 percent Muslim, with 90 percent Sunni and 10 percent Shiite.
PERSECUTOR: Local and national governments are highly antagonistic toward Christians. Extremist groups, including the Taliban and ISIS, are active, and believers are persecuted by their families, friends and communities.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN AFGHANISTAN: Afghans who are followers of Jesus must hide their faith and cannot worship openly. There are no physical church buildings in the country. All Christians worship in house churches. Evangelism is forbidden. Believers in Afghanistan gather in homes or other small venues. Christians or seekers are highly secretive about their faith, especially following a surge of arrests in recent years. Beatings, torture and kidnappings are routine for Christians in Afghanistan. Many have immigrated to neighboring countries in order to worship openly. Still, Afghan house churches continue to grow. A small number of Christians are martyred every year in Afghanistan, but this occurs largely without public knowledge. A small number of believers are in prison, but imprisonment is not common. Christian converts from Islam are often killed by family members or radicals before any legal process takes place.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Since there are no churches or bookstores in Afghanistan, Bibles are only available through underground ministry networks or in digital formats. There is little access to printed Bibles, and the danger for owning one is extreme. Most believers do not have their own Bible, but online or digital formats are available and extremely helpful to believers and seekers. Ongoing Bible translation efforts are underway for some of the people groups within the country that do not have a Bible in their native language.
VOM WORK: equips Afghan Christians by providing Bibles, TV and radio broadcasts, discipleship training, frontline worker support and other forms of practical and spiritual assistance, with special focus on outreach to persecuted women and widows of martyrs.