By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Christian aid workers warned Friday that Afghan Christians are “at huge risk” as American troops leave the country.
The Islamist Taliban group “publicly announced that Christians must convert [to Islam] leave or be killed,” noted Barnabas Fund, a Christian charity.
Taliban fighters “are expanding their area of control, especially in rural areas,” said Barnabas Fund, which supports Afghan Christians.
By the end of August, “the last Americans will have gone. But in mid-July, the Taliban already claimed to control 85 percent of the country,” Barnabas Fund told Worthy News.
Other observers say the Taliban controls less territory. However, “What is certain that Afghan Christians, as converts from Islam, will be even more vulnerable under Taliban rule than under the Afghan government,” Barnabas Fund warned.
Well-informed Barnabas Fund said the Taliban is re-imposing its “ultra-strict form of ‘sharia’ (Islamic law) as they go.”
There are up to roughly 3,000 Christians from a Muslim background residing in the country, according to U.S. sources and researchers. Other reports say there may be as many as 18,000 Afghan Christians practicing their faith secretly in the strict Islamic nation.
“How we survive daily only God knows,” said a secret Afghan believer in a published statement. “He knows because He has been kind to dwell with us. But we are tired of all the death around us,” added the believer speaking anonymously amid security concerns.
The remarks were shared by Open Doors, a prominent Christian advocacy group. “Leaving Islam is considered shameful. Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered,” confirmed Open Doors.
“Either they have to flee the country, or they will be killed. If a Christian’s family discovers they have converted, their family, clan or tribe has to save its ‘honor’ by disowning the believer, or even killing them,” Open Doors stressed.
“Christians from a Muslim background can also be sectioned in a psychiatric hospital. Because leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity,” the group said. Afghanistan ranks 2nd (after North Korea) on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List of 50 nations where Christians reportedly face most persecution.
Despite the dangers, Christians continue to worship in secret. There are no public churches in Afghanistan, and Christians practice either alone or in small congregations, meeting in private homes, Worthy News learned.
It was not immediately clear what support the United States will give to Christians staying behind. However, a group of 200 Afghan interpreters and their families arrived in the U.S. on Friday.
Their arrival in the state of Virginia marked the beginning of the evacuation of thousands of people. All face danger in Afghanistan due to their work with the U.S. military as the Taliban gains control of more territory nationwide.
The Afghans will be resettled across the country, according to U.S. officials.
U.S. President Joe Biden said recently that the withdrawal from Afghanistan of American troops after 20 years of war would conclude on August 31. That is ahead of the September 11 deadline he announced in mid-April.
"We are ending the nation's longest war," the president said.