by Elizabeth Kendal
-------------------------------------- Religious liberty is not only about human rights (freedom for people to believe and practise their belief), it is equally about mission. Lack of religious freedom brings suffering and persecution to the Church, and suppresses the gospel of salvation, withholding the bread of life (Jesus) from those who are spiritually hungry and dying without hope. When we pray for religious liberty we are to pray with a compassionate heart for our suffering brothers and sisters, and with a yearning mission heart for the lost. Afghanistan has only ever had one official church building. It was built in 1970 and destroyed in 1973 after Islamists complained about the growing numbers of converts. When the order was given for the missionaries to be expelled and the church bulldozed, the German businessman, Hans Mohr, who had purchased building materials for the church, uttered what turned out to be a prophetic word to the mayor of Kabul. Mohr warned, 'If your government touches that house of God, God will overthrow your government.' On 17 July 1973, the government's bulldozers razed the church. That very night, General Mohammed Daoud orchestrated a successful coup. He overthrew the Afghan monarchy, established a republic and pronounced himself president and prime minister of a one-party state. Since that day, Afghanistan has spiralled downwards. Opium production is really all that is booming and much of that funds international terrorism. Afghanistan is plagued with violence, unrest and despair. It is a land of warlords, hunger, suffering, oppression, addiction, destruction and grief. Afghanistan is also a land that is cursed with drought, locusts and other natural disasters. Afghanistan and its people greatly need the Biblical God and the personal and national transformation that can only come from HIM. However, central to Afghanistan's new constitution (signed into law on 26 Jan 2004) is the provision that 'no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam'. That is a polite way of saying that Afghanistan is still under Islamic law. So regardless of all the positive suggestions in the new constitution, in reality there is still no freedom of religion. The level of despair in Afghanistan today is tragic. Of 56 people who committed suicide in Herat, western Afghanistan, in recent months, 52 were women, and most self-immolated. Of course many more have died than are recorded, and many others failed in their suicide attempt. Trauma-induced mental illness is widespread across the nation (estimated at 30% in Kandahar), even amongst children, and there are acutely insufficient resources to deal with the problem. There are some 26 million people living in Afghanistan - born into suffering. Because there is no religious freedom, most will never hear the name of Jesus. PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
- God, in his great mercy, will reveal himself to Afghanis - to President Hamid Karzai, diplomats, intellectuals and professionals as they travel, meet people, read, and use computers; and to others through radio, witness and supernatural means.
- suffering will lead to openness and eventually to a great harvest - God can redeem every situation. (Genesis 45:4-8)
- religious freedom will become a reality in Afghanistan ('nothing is impossible with God.' Luke 1:37) so that Christians can live in peace, many Afghanis can be saved, and the land can be healed.