By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Many of thousands of Afghan Christians are fleeing through mountains and other challenging terrains to neighboring nations amid fears they will be killed by Afghanistan's ruling Islamist Taliban group, according to multiple sources.
Thursday's twin bomb blasts and shootings around Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport killing as many as 72 people, including 13
American troops added to concerns within Afghanistan's underground church. Christian charity Barnabas Fund, which rescues Christians, said that "Flying from Kabul is no longer possible for most Afghans. Because the Taliban forbids them to board the planes that are evacuating Westerners unless they have the right approvals."
However, it noted that many Afghan Christians are crossing borders overland into neighboring nations. Barnabas Fund told Worthy News it is in direct contact with 306 Afghan Christian families, some 2,000 individuals, seeking safety. "We are currently assisting about 400 Afghan Christians, men, women, and children who have recently escaped into a neighboring country. We are caring for another 400 still in Afghanistan. We are also preparing to enable 1,200 [Christians} to get out of Afghanistan and into safe countries," the group added.
There are about 1,200 Christian families in Afghanistan, totaling 5,000 to 8,000 individuals, Barnabas Fund reported. "But only the Lord knows the true number," the group added. Other church sources say there may be as many as 18,000 Christians in the Islamist nation.
"As first-generation converts from Islam and their children, they face almost certain death at the hands of the Taliban, "Barnabas Fund explained. The Taliban, which introduced a strict interpretation of Islam, or sharia, "now control virtually the whole country, Barnabas Fund noted. "They will kill them [Christians] as apostates," the charity warned.
The group said it had asked donors to help support the living costs of Christians hiding in Afghanistan and believers fleeing to, and settling in, safer nations. "We will be funding flights for Christians to travel from the region to safer countries. We will need to fund them for a period as they settle into their new safe countries."
Earlier this week, more than 1,000 desperate Christians were flown from Afghanistan. The flight came after American radio host Glenn Beck and a group he founded raised millions of dollars to rescue them, organizers confirmed. Barnabas Fund stressed it too has a "long track record of rescuing Christians" in danger and bringing them to safety. "Through our Operation Safe Havens, we have rescued more than 8,000 South Sudanese Christians, by plane and bus, who needed to escape from the Islamic northern Sudan."
The group claimed it also rescued over 1,700 Syrian and Iraqi Christians, "helping them settle in safe Western countries, paying visas,
airfares, and living costs on arrival. Over the years, we have rescued many others."
Christians are among the most persecuted groups in the world, according to advocacy group Open Doors. It says one in eight Christians worldwide, some 340 million people live in countries where they face potential persecution.
Afghanistan ranks second, after North Korea, on the Open Doors' annual World Watch List of 50 nations where it says Christians face most difficulties."It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. Leaving Islam is considered shameful, and Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered," Open Doors said. "Either they have to flee the country, or they will be killed."
Christianity has continued to grow in Afghanistan despite the dangers, with many Muslims turning to faith in Christ, according to missionaries.