No Churches Left in Afghanistan

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (Worthy News)-- There aren't any public churches left standing in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department.

So much for religious freedom one decade after the United States first invaded and then overthrew its Taliban regime, costing taxpayers $440 billion and incurring more than 1,700 U.S. military deaths to date.

The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed back in March 2010, according to the State Department's International Religious Freedom Report, which also states that there are no Christian schools left in the country.

"There is no longer a public Christian church; the courts have not upheld the church's claim to its 99-year lease, and the landowner destroyed the building in March ... (private) chapels and churches for the international community of various faiths are located on several military bases, PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Teams), and at the Italian embassy."

The report also states that "Negative societal opinions and suspicion of Christian activities led to targeting of Christian groups and individuals, including Muslim converts to Christianity. The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom."

Today, most Christians in Afghanistan are afraid to even "state their beliefs, or gather openly to worship."

The report acknowledged that Afghanistan's new constitution -- ratified with the help of U.S. mediation in 2004 -- can be contradictory when it concerns the free exercise of religion.

While the new constitution proclaims that Islam is the "religion of the state" and that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam," it also claims that "followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law," even though "the right to change one's religion was not respected either in law or in practice."

"Muslims who converted away from Islam risked losing their marriages, rejection from their families and villages, and loss of jobs," according to the report. "Legal aid for imprisoned converts away from Islam remains difficult due to the personal objection of Afghan lawyers to defend apostates."

More than 99 percent of the Afghan population is either Sunni, or Shia. Non-Muslim religious groups make up less than 1 percent of the population; other non-Muslim groups in the country are Sikhs, Bahais and Hindus.