Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Nigeria: Terrorism Strikes the South-West

Owo church massacre might herald something worse on horizon
by Elizabeth Kendal

OWO CHURCH MASSACRE
terrorism strikes the South-West

Channels TV 5 June 2022

At around 11:30am on Pentecost Sunday 5 June, Fulani Muslim militants from the North attacked worshippers at St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, in the north of Ondo State, in Nigeria’s mostly Christian ethnic Yoruba South-West. 

They struck as the worship service was ending, detonating Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and shooting worshippers as they fled.

According to reports, some of the terrorists were already inside, disguised as worshippers, while others wore military camouflage and were armed with automatic rifles. The shooting continued for about 20 minutes, and though it ‘could be heard from the nearby Methodist Church ... police officers stationed close to the area failed to respond’ (CSW, 6 June).

The highly organised attack left 22 worshippers dead and 56 wounded requiring hospitalisation, many in a critical condition (revised toll as of 7 June)

Rushing home from a gathering of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu wept as he visited the massacre site and again as he visited the survivors in hospital.

A “devoted Christian” and Yoruba man, Governor Akeredolu (65) is the son of the late Reverend Jeremiah Olatusi Akeredolu, a convert from Yoruba traditional religion who rose to become the first Anglican Bishop of Akoko in Ondo State.

Ondo State Governor
Rotimi Akeredolu

Critically, Governor Akeredolu has been a leading advocate for restructuring, the need for state police, the anti-open grazing law (limiting the infiltration of Fulani herdsmen), and power rotation (i.e. the unwritten rule that the presidency should rotate between mostly Muslim North and mostly Christian South). Consequently, it might prove significant that the terrorists struck Owo, Governor Akeredolu’s hometown.

Indeed, many view the Owo church massacre as a declaration of war against the Yoruba in general and against Governor Akeredolu in particular.

POSSIBLE MOTIVE
Nigeria is in election mode

With Nigeria’s next general elections slated for 25 February (federal) and 11 March (state) 2023, Nigeria is in election mode.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its indirect presidential primary on 28 May 2022 and nominated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar – its 2019 nominee [see RLPB 488 (6 Feb 2019)] – as its presidential candidate for 2023. Atiku is a Northern Muslim from Adamawa State, whose Islam leans towards the liberal/nominal; he is more interested in the reviving the economy and in revitalising the private sector than he is in advancing Islam.

Meanwhile, the ruling APC is yet to announce its candidate. Having been elected to the office of president twice, President Muhammadu Buhari is ineligible for re-election. What’s more, because President Buhari is a Fulani Muslim from the North, many in the party believe the APC should endorse a candidate from the South. Leading the drive for a southern candidate is the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.

On 4 June (the day before the Owo church massacre), eleven northern APC governors declared their support for a southern presidential candidate and recommended to President Buhari that they limit the search to their southern counterparts. Governor Akeredolu tweeted of his ‘utmost joy’.

Then, on 6 June (the day after the massacre), at the meeting of the National Working Committee in Abuja, the APC National Chairman Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, announced Senate President, Ahmed Lawan – a Northern Muslim, from Yobe – as the APC’s consensus presidential candidate.   

Governor Akeredolu questioned whether the announcement was a joke, suggesting Lawan had simply “made public his preferred choice” ahead of APC’s presidential primaries to be held in Abuja from Monday 6 to Wednesday 8 June. The main southern contender is a Christian Yoruba man, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, a graduate of the London School of Economics.

The problem is this: in line with global trends, multitudes of Nigerian Muslims have radicalised, leaving more Muslims unwilling to vote for a non-Muslim on account of the Quranic command: “O believers! Do not take disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Would you like to give Allah solid proof against yourselves?” (Sura 4:144). Consequently, it is increasingly the case that most Northern Muslims will not be willing – or able (due to threat) – to vote for a non-Muslim.

RESPONSIBILITY
a mysterious silence

 
It is very interesting and indeed quite unusual that no-one has (as yet) claimed responsibility for the Owo terror attack.

Boko Haram (JAS), Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and militant Fulani herdsmen (terrorist proxies) have all been active in neighbouring Kogi State, a strategic central state and transport hub linking the political capital, Abuja (in the centre), to the commercial capital, Lagos (on the South-West coast). [See RLPB 618, Jihad Expands in Niger and Kogi, 6 Oct 2021.]

More recently, ISWAP has claimed responsibility for several terror attacks in Kogi. On 24 April, ISWAP claimed responsibility for an attack on a police station in Adavi LGA. ISWAP also claimed responsibility for the 11 May bombing of a beer parlour/bar in Kabba town which killed three and wounded 16; and another bar bombing on 29 May, also in Kabba, which left 12 people seriously injured. Sahara Reporters notes (31 May): “Kabba is the headquarters of the Kabba/Bunnu Local Government Area and the people speak a dialect of Yoruba called Owe.” 

ISWAP also claimed responsibility for the bombing on Thursday 2 June of an annual festival in Okene (38 km southeast of Kabba) which killed two and wounded 12.

Like Kabba, Okene is primarily populated by ethnic Yoruba. Both towns are just 100km north-east of Owo. Yet ISWAP, which is believed to have cells all through the south, has not claimed responsibility. 

Nigeria's South-West, showing Owo in Ondo State,
and Kabba and Okene in Kogi State.

Could it be that a coalition of jihadists/terrorists, ethnic Fulani expansionists, and corrupt Muslim officials at the highest levels of the military and the government might be working together – each maintaining deniability – to terrorise the Yoruba ahead of a campaign to retain and advance Northern-Fulani-Islamist control of Nigeria?

If so, then civil war is on the horizon!

SECURITY
a constitutional crisis

Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution was prepared by the military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar (a Hausa Muslim from the North) and decreed into being, just ahead of Nigeria’s return to democracy. Not only did the 1999 constitution abolish local police and centralise Nigeria’s police force, it also expressly bans the establishment of any other police force [see RLPB 596 (5 May 2021)].

The Owo terror attack has reignited calls for a total restructuring of Nigeria’s security apparatus.

In a powerful opinion piece (published 5 June) entitled, Nigeria Needs True Security Federalism, Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E. explains:
 
“It is technically impossible to adequately secure a huge nation of 200 million people like Nigeria, from one single central location, modern communications notwithstanding.

“To secure Nigeria, you need field security commanders at the local level, knowledgeable of the peculiarities of the local terrain, and fully empowered to take proactive or preemptive security control measures, as they deem fit,without reference to the center or anywhere else besides the State Government.

“Imagine the chaos at the security command and control center in Abuja. It is daily inundated with situation reports (sit-reps) coming in from 36 State Commissioners of Police, each awaiting further instructions and directives on how best to respond to evolving security threats in their respective jurisdictions.

“Just picture the ensuing chaos and confusion.

“Even with a patriotic, well-meaning Central Command, there is bound to be information overload from so many incoming sitreps, each requiring separate threat analysis, and communication of tactical instructions to the respective field commanders.

“When a Fulani expansionist is the Commander-in-Chief as is the situation currently, and you factor in their obsession with evaluating whether each security threat enhances or detracts from their overall strategic objective of overrunning Nigeria, what you get is the present security chaos.”

See also:
Military Rule and Damage to the Spirit of the Nigerian Constitution
Peter Ekeh, Lagos Lecture, 1 December 2010

Presidential Control of the Nigeria Police: Constitutional Reforms for Organizational Performance Development and Political Neutrality
by Chineze Sophia Ibekwe, LL.B, LL.M, PhD (Labour Law), and Onyeka Nosike Aduma, LL.B, LL.M (Law).
Global Journal of Politics and Law Research
Vol.8, No.2, pp.65-79, March 2020

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

She is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology and has formerly served with the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission and Christian Faith and Freedom (Canberra).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Friday, April 8, 2022

Afghanistan: Islam, the Taliban and the Underground Church


By Elizabeth Kendal

Taliban in Kabul, August 2021
(Rahmat Gul / AP)
 

On Sunday 15 August 2021, thousands of heavily armed Taliban fighters swept into Kabul and fanned out across the capital. As in provincial capitals around the country, the Afghan Army simply collapsed. Unwilling to fight, Afghan government troops surrendered Bagram airbase to the Taliban, complete with some 700 trucks, more than 300 Humvees, and dozens of armoured vehicles, artillery systems and a maximum-security prison. Roughly 5,000 prisoners were released, of whom at least 2,300 were known battle hardened militants affiliated with the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)), al-Qaeda, and Islamic State. 

A few days later, Global Catalytic Ministries – an organisation which supports underground churches in Islamic countries – released grainy footage from a young, clearly distraught, Afghan Christian. “All of our work over the past 20 years has been lost overnight,” he cries. “[We feel like the] whole world has abandoned us.” [See RLPB 612 (25 Aug 2021).]

LONG AN UNGERGROUND CHURCH

Because the Afghan Church has long been an imperilled, underground Church, the exact number of believers is unknown. After the fall of Kabul, one Afghan Church leader estimated the Christian population at 10,000 to 12,000; while another put the figure at 5,000 to 8,000. Both feared the Taliban would eventually move to “eliminate the Christian population”. 

In May 2021, just prior to the Taliban takeover, a foreign worker inside Afghanistan told World News Group correspondent Mindy Belz: “There are basically three types of believers: those who have been forced to leave the country, those who survive by exercising their faith underground, and those who are dead.”

Belz explains: “The shrouded group of believers – who meet in homes and small, trusted fellowship circles – exists entirely underground.” Yet, as she notes, Muslims continue to come to faith across the country. “Internet access coming even to remote parts of the country has brought online evangelism and private discipleship. Some Afghan church leaders became Christians while living as refugees abroad and they teach online or have returned to disciple others.” However, “Conversion from Islam continues to carry a high cost in the Afghan honour-and-shame culture. It often means loss of family, inheritance, and a job.”

“For these reasons,” writes Belz, “fellowship among believers can be rare, often taking place in online chat rooms accessed through VPNs [Virtual Private Networks], a secure connection to the internet that makes the user hard to trace. When believers do gather, they do so in small groups over lunch at an office or behind curtains in a safe house in an otherwise nondescript neighbourhood of dusty streets. Bibles are usually contraband, so Scripture is shared using the internet or with cell phone SIM cards. For all the risks, bold church leaders evangelise Muslims and baptise new believers.” 

CHRISTIAN WITNESS NOT ALLOWED

Baptisms must be performed in secret. The last time Afghans were caught participating in baptism was May 2010. On that occasion a privately-run Afghan television station, Noorin TV, broadcast footage showing Afghans being baptised and worshipping with foreign Christians in alleged “missionary safe houses” in western Kabul. 

The footage triggered a tsunami of Islamic rage in Kabul. Protestors hit the streets, demanding the expulsion of foreigners who try to convert Muslims. To appease the Muslim masses President Karzai appointed a commission to investigate all non-government organisations (NGOs) suspected of promoting Christianity. He also instructed his interior minister and the head of country’s spy agency “to take immediate and serious action to prevent this phenomenon”. In parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a deputy of the lower house, called for Muslim converts to Christianity to be executed. Qazi Nazir Ahmad, a lawmaker from the western province of Herat, affirmed that killing an apostate is “not a crime”. Twenty-five Christians were immediately arrested; over 100 Afghan converts fled to India. 

The situation for Afghan converts had been deteriorating since 2005, a consequence of the Taliban revival. Over the border, in Pakistan, US-ally President Pervez Musharraf had brokered a series of land-for-peace deals with the Taliban-al-Qaeda-tribal alliance. In February 2005 he ceded South Waziristan, and on 5 September 2006 he ceded North Waziristan, providing the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance with an autonomous mini-state – “The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan” – within Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area, along the porous border with Afghanistan.

The Waziristan Accord provided Taliban and al-Qaeda militants with a safe-haven, a sanctuary from where they could consolidate, strategise, recruit, train, deploy, enforce their writ, and expand their sphere of influence. Six months later, in February 2007, the Washington based Center for Security Policy reported that Taliban-al-Qaeda cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan had increased by 300 percent. 

Not only were terror attacks on the rise, but an apostasy trial had lit a fuse that was threatening to blow the Karzai government out of office. 

APOSTASY NOT ALLOWED

Abdul Rahman, in court March 2006 (Reuters)

Arrested in February 2006, Abdul Rahman was the first Afghan convert to be put on trial in Kabul for apostasy (the capital crime of leaving Islam). 

Afghanistan’s new US-backed Constitution – signed into law in January 2004 – states: “Followers of other religions [i.e. non-Muslims] are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law” (Article Two); and, “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” (Article Three). In other words, nothing had changed! Afghan Muslims still had zero religious liberty.

Within months of the new US-backed Constitution being signed into law, five Afghan converts were summary executed. Concerning one execution, Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi told Reuters newsgroup, “A group of Taliban dragged out Mullah Assad Ullah and slit his throat with a knife because he was propagating Christianity.”

Vigilant killings aside, the trial of Abdul Rahman was the first real test of the Karzai government. Having failed to understand the Afghan Constitution, Western governments demanded religious freedom be respected. Meanwhile, Afghan Muslims demanded Islamic Sharia Law be upheld. Karzai was stuck between the threat of Western sanctions and the threat of Islamic riots. 

Desperate for aid, Karzai had Rahman released from prison and secretly smuggled out of the country. The Afghan response was brutal. 

On Wednesday 29 March 2006, after a two-hour debate, Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga (lower chamber of parliament) voted unanimously to declare the decision to release Rahman, “contrary to the laws in place in Afghanistan”. Unaware that he was already on his way to Europe, the MPs insisted Rahman not be permitted to leave the country. Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari complained that Islamic laws were being ignored and that some government officials were not upholding Islamic values. 

The Taliban issued a statement claiming Rahman’s release was a conspiracy masterminded by foreign forces. The statement called on the mullahs and judges to admit that they had sold themselves as servants of infidels. “We condemn this crime of the puppet administration,” railed the Taliban. “We ask our Muslim brothers to take their position against this offence by the enemies of Islam and to act, based on their responsibility to their religion and God, and to start jihad against Karzai’s administration.”

In July 2006, to appease the Taliban, Karzai reinstituted the religious police of the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Disbanded after the Taliban was ousted in 2001, this force – famous for beating women, destroying art, and turning executions into spectator sport – was back! 

[For detailed reports see Religious Liberty Monitoring; label: Afghanistan]

“USED TO BEING AN UNDERGROUND CHURCH”

As Andrew Boyd of Release International UK (Voice of the Martyrs) notes, Afghan Christians “are used to being an underground church; they are used to working under the most intense pressure and persecution.”  

In October 2021, an Afghan church leader told GCM: “Today I went to visit some families. In one home, half of them are believers and half of them are not. It has been very special, when they see me they are so happy and grateful that I have not left them. I know this is the light of Jesus they are responding to. That is what I hear the most when I go visit people, that my presence gives them hope, and I know that is from the light of God. God works supernatural miracles, signs, and wonders in this part of the world often, but what I am seeing now is more of a natural kind of miracle where He is touching the hearts of people. From what I am seeing in the streets I do think things are getting worse, but it is a very special time and I think the church here will explode in growth.”            

The “light of Jesus” has not left Afghanistan, and we – the Body of Christ – can help keep that light shining. 

The humanitarian crisis facing Afghans is extreme. Reports abound of Afghans selling a kidney, a litre of blood, or even a child, just to survive. 

We - the Body of Christ - can and must help the Afghan Church survive and grow. 

SPEAK, PRAY, GIVE.

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For more on Afghanistan and the history of the Afghan Church, see:
Afghanistan, the Afghan Church, and J. Christy Wilson Jr
By Elizabeth Kendal

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Afghanistan, the Afghan Church, and J. Christy Wilson Jr.

J. Christy Wilson Jn. (1921 – 1999)
No missionaries in Afghanistan? Here I am, send me! 

by Elizabeth Kendal

Kabul, Afghanistan, February 1973. German businessman Hans Mohr stands in the office of the German-educated mayor of Kabul. Having learned that the mayor has ordered his church be demolished, Mohr has come to advocate for Afghanistan’s one and only church. 

A few months earlier, in September 1972, Afghan soldiers armed with demolition tools attacked the church’s perimeter wall. On that occasion, American ambassador Robert Neumann appealed to the king who intervened to restore peace. However, the soldiers returned in February ‘73, while Neumann was out of the country, and demolished the wall entirely.

Dedicated in May 1970, the Community Christian Church of Kabul (CCCK) had been built to serve the foreign community in Kabul. Under the guidance of King Mohammed Zahir Shah, Kabul had been on a path of modernisation since the 1950s. But by 1970, Islam was rising and tensions were soaring. 

Upon leaving the mayor’s office, Hans Mohr issued a warning that proved to be prophetic: “If your government touches that house of God, God will overthrow your government.”

Eventually, all efforts at advocacy proved futile; the church was notified that demolition would commence on 13 June (1973). The church handed over the keys with a note that read: “May God bless you and your country.”

GOD OPENS THE DOOR 

click on map to enlarge

Christianity reached Afghanistan in the fourth Century, via the Silk Route. By the 420s, Isfahan (in Iran), Merv (in Turkmenistan) and Herat (in western Afghanistan) all had bishops. Islam’s arrival brought persecution and subjugation; but it was not until the 14th century that Christianity collapsed across Asia. A vulnerable minority within an Islamic Turco-Mongol super-Caliphate, the Christian communities of Central Asia and Afghanistan were annihilated; their ecclesiastical institutions shredded beyond repair. The killings peaked during the reign of Amir Timur, also known as Timur the Lame, or Tamerlane. The genocidal Turco-Mongol warlord – who ruled from 1370 to 1405 – is believed to be responsible for the deaths of some 17 million people. 

Brave Christian missionaries ventured into Afghanistan in the 17th and 18th centuries. Armenian Christians built a church in Kabul in the late 1700s, but by 1896 it had been destroyed and abandoned. In the 19th century Protestant mission agencies built schools and medical clinics for Afghans, but outside the country, mostly in Peshawar, Pakistan. Afghanistan’s strict bans on proselytisation (Christian witness) and apostasy (leaving Islam) made working inside the country far too dangerous. 

Then came Christy Wilson. 

J. Christy Wilson Jn. was born to US missionary parents in Tabriz, north-western Iran in 1921. As a child he loved to hear stories of converts from Islam and was drawn to Afghanistan primarily through listening to his parents’ prayers for the country. 

When Christy was 5-years old, Pastor Stefan Huviar of Tabriz, asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. 

 “I want to be a missionary to Afghanistan,” Christy answered.

“Well,” said Pastor Huviar, “missionaries aren’t allowed in Afghanistan.” 

“That’s why I want to be one there,” Christy replied. 

After completing studies in Princeton (USA) and Edinburgh (UK), Christy married Betty in 1950. Together they committed to serve in Afghanistan. 

Eager to modernise, Afghanistan was seeking teachers and skilled workers. Missionaries, however, were not allowed. Aware of this, Christy determined to enter Afghanistan as a teacher, so he might live there as a Christian and cultivate relationships with Afghan Muslims. 

Eventually, Christy was offered a job teaching English in Habibia High School, the oldest secondary school in Kabul. 

ZERO CHRISTIANS

One of Kabul's three paved roads - 1951.
More images: The Atlantic

When Christy and Betty Wilson arrived in Afghanistan in 1951, poverty was rampant, and the illiteracy rate was 97 percent. While there were 52 different languages and over 100 people groups the number of known Christians was zero. 

When they first arrived in Kabul, the Wilsons prayed and worshipped secretly with other foreign workers. Discovering Christy was an ordained minister, the group requested he serve as their pastor and preach weekly. Christy devoted himself to the task and the church grew. It was thanks to his ministry that quite a few foreigners found Christ in Kabul! 

In late 1952, the group planted the Community Christian Church of Kabul – an evangelical interdenominational congregation for the foreign community. Eager to focus on pastoral ministry, Christy asked the Afghan government if it would permit him to stay in Kabul as a pastor for the foreign community, rather than as an English teacher. The government agreed!

Children in a Kabul street, 1961.
More images: The Atlantic

Though not free to openly share the Gospel, Christy was free to rise early and pray, ‘to show the fruits of the Spirit’, and to help those in need. To his delight, local Afghans were constantly at his door and on the phone, requesting help, seeking advice, and asking questions. 

Before long, the number of known Afghan Christians was no longer zero. 

AN UNDERGROUND CHURCH IS BORN

When one young Afghan convert was discovered and imprisoned, in shackles in ankle deep water, Christy gathered the church to pray. 

Late at night there was a knock at the door. Assuming another believer had come to join the secret meeting, the homeowner sent his daughter Cathy to let them in. When she opened the door, Cathy found the young Afghan believer for whom they were praying. Shocked, she ran back into the house, leaving the young man standing at the door. Cathy was knick-named Rhoda after that (Acts 12:3-19).

Released for unknown reasons, the convert had come straight to Christy’s home. Once they had tended to him, the believers had the convert smuggled out of the country. 

On another occasion, the brother of a martyred convert arrived at Christy’s door in anguish. He’d had a dream in which he saw his martyred brother alive in a garden full of beautiful fruit. When he asked for some fruit, his brother told him to “go to the home of Christy Wilson and ask him to you show the way”. 

“I’ve seen my brother in heaven,” he exclaimed, “and he sent me to your home! You must have the truth. What is it?” 

Despite being arrested and tortured, this convert never renounced his faith in Christ.

THE BUILDING IS CONSTRUCTED 

In 1956 the community of foreign Christians in Kabul began to pray for permission to construct a church building. Every request met with rejection. In 1959, Christy decided to take the advocacy up a level. He contacted a pastor friend in Washington DC who he knew had forged a relationship with President Eisenhower. The issue would be reciprocity: since the US government had built a mosque in Washington DC, might the Afghan government allow the construction of a church for foreign Christians in Kabul? 

Eager for US aid, the Afghan government agreed, albeit reluctantly. Still, the church faced obstacle after obstacle. In 1966 the Prime Minister’s office granted the church permission to buy land. By July 1969 enough money had been raised for construction to begin. Eventually, the Community Christian Church of Kabul was complete. A service of dedicated was held on Pentecost Sunday 17 May 1970.  

ISLAM RISING

After two world wars in which Muslims (first the Turks, then the Arabs) fought on the losing side, many assumed Islam – which had been in decline for centuries – was as good as dead. But they were wrong. For while the West was consumed with Cold War intrigues, Islam had embarked on a path to revival.  

In February 1973, having ordered the church be demolished, the Afghan government decided Christy Wilson should be expelled. The US Ambassador warned the Wilsons that their safety could no longer be guaranteed. On 24 March 1973, Christy and Betty fled Afghanistan – a land, and whose people, they loved and had served for 22 years. 

The demolition of the Community Christian Church of Kabul commenced on 13 June 1973. After a few weeks, the church had been totally razed and the rubble cleared. Then, to everyone’s surprise, the bulldozers didn’t leave – instead they started to dig! Having heard rumors of an “underground church” Afghan secret police ordered the bulldozers dig “twelve feet” below the foundations!  

Finally, on 17 July 1973, having completed the demolition, and having failed to find any “underground church”, the bulldozers packed up and went home. 

That very evening, Mohammed Daoud Khan – the king’s cousin and former prime minister – seized power in a bloodless coup. Khan abolished the monarchy and declared himself President of the Republic of Afghanistan. 

Hans Mohr’s prophecy had come to pass. Afghanistan has been wracked with conflict and bloodshed ever since. 

Despite the bloodshed and terror, Afghanistan’s underground church has both survived and grown, for God – the one who knows – is the one who holds the keys. He has opened the door – a door on-one is able to shut (Rev 3:7-13).   

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article based on the biography:
Where No-one Has Heard: the Life of J. Christy Wilson Jr.
By Ken Wilson (William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA, 2015)

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See also:
Afghanistan: Islam, the Taliban, and the Underground Church
By Elizabeth Kendal, 8 April 2022

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate, and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).