Our brothers and sisters in the Lord are being hunted down! No news this past month has been more heartbreaking than the news coming out of Afghanistan. The Taliban has seized control of Kabul and of the entire country. What this exactly means in the long term relating to stability in the Middle East is anyone’s guess, but in the short term it means that Christians are being hunted down and killed through house-to-house raids.
A brief timeline highlighting how and why the United States entered Afghanistan is in order. For most of the readers of this magazine, the US involvement in the Middle East began before you were born. After what is now referred to as 9-11, or the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States began a war on terrorism. The goal in 2001 was to defeat Al-Qaeda, the militant Islamic group responsible for the attack, and the Taliban, a militant Islamic group who provided sanctuary for Osama bin Laden in southern Afghanistan. Roughly two years later, President George W. Bush announced that the major combat operations were complete and that the United States was shifting to reconstruction. The United States used military means to support the Afghan government, helping them write a pro-democracy constitution and hold a democratic election resulting in Hamid Karzai being elected as president. The Taliban forces remained in southern Afghanistan but were held in check.
Subsequent presidential administrations have swung back and forth between policies intended to strengthen the position of the United States in Afghanistan and those meant to withdraw American presence in the region. During the presidency of Barack Obama, an initial surge in troops eventually led to a successful Navy Seal raid, which was able to locate and kill the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Believing the major threat to be removed, the United States handed over security responsibility to the US-trained Afghan military and announced a timeline for US withdrawal. This news, however, seems only to have revived the Taliban forces.
US policy under President Donald Trump took a similar twofold path. Though he initially stopped the withdrawal policy and promised a “fight to win,” it gradually became clear that the president was more interested in making a peace treaty with the Taliban and bringing our troops home. After several unsuccessful attempts at this, he finally announced the terms of a brokered peace in February 2020. Promises to cease hostility and exchange thousands of prisoners were made between the US government and the Taliban. The Afghan government, however, was largely left out of negotiations and therefore had little interest in enforcing the terms of the deal.
With no threat of enforcement from the Afghan government, the Taliban recognized immediately that this was a clear victory for them. When President Trump lost the presidential election in November, it was up to new president Joseph Biden to oversee the withdrawal effort put in place by his predecessor. With the Taliban moving in as the US troops moved out, President Biden had only a few choices: continue with the approved deadline of May 2021 set by the Trump administration, alter the deadline again, or rescind the deal and send in more American troops. He went with the second option, moving the deadline to August 31 as the final date for all American troops to be out of Afghanistan.
How does that bring us to today? The Taliban patiently waited, and then pounced swiftly and decisively. With limited US troops on the ground, the well-armed but ill-prepared Afghan military fell to the Taliban almost overnight. Sickening for some are the images of the Taliban smiling and waving around American firearms while driving the Humvees, tanks, drones, and armored trucks we left behind. Sickening for others is the blame game that both parties seem to be relishing in by blaming each other for a failed twenty-year involvement in the Middle East. Ironically, both sides can clearly see the missteps of the other party. But there are conclusions they both can agree on. The Taliban is a group of unusually good fighters, and the US never really trusted the Afghan government.
Young people, this is truly disturbing news. Yes, the United States has lost yet another conflict wherein we tried to bring peace, stability, and democracy. But this issue is not primarily about our street cred on the global scene. This is sad and disturbing news for our Christian brothers and sisters in the Lord who now face a radical Islamic government that has committed itself to the removal of all Christians. With the Taliban going door-to-door, looking for Bibles on their shelves or Bible apps on their phones, Christians are being tried and often executed on the spot as infidels. Young Christian girls are being pursued by the Taliban. Known Christian leaders have received letters stating that the Taliban knows who they are and where they have been performing illegal church meetings. Christian missionaries and volunteers remain trapped in a country that is committed to resurrecting the Islamic State caliphate that collapsed in 2019 (a caliphate refers to a region governed by a Muslim ruler as both a political and religious “state” that is not bound by national borders). Even more horrifying is that the US government has refused to take in any refugees from Afghanistan or Pakistan and has deemed it unwise to send in enough US troops to secure the safe passage of the thousands left behind. Almost exactly twenty years later, the Taliban is more secure, better armed, and more committed to ruling Afghanistan as a Muslim-only state.
How has the rest of the world responded? India has announced that they will prioritize evacuating Hindus and Sikhs, the dominant religious peoples of their nation. Germany has vowed to evacuate and bring into their country as many as 10,000 people, and the UK is in the process of prioritizing those “most in need” by aiding the evacuation and placement of refugees throughout Europe. The Nazarene Fund, a nonprofit group headed by prominent Mormons whose stated goal is “to liberate the captive, to free the enslaved, and to rescue, rebuild and restore the lives of Christians and other persecuted religious and ethnic minorities wherever and whenever they are in need” has already raised over $22 million and has rescued over 400 Christians from Afghanistan. There are many others, and probably more that we will never hear about due to the nature of rescue operations. Throughout the world Christians have been asked to pray, and they have. Their prayers and their songs have been shared to the saints abroad.
Christian young people, my worldview is not a political worldview, it is a biblical Christian worldview. Important as it might seem to be informed about whose fault it is, or how this chapter of world history reflects my political party’s reputation, it is far more important that I have my eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ and his church. Our nation as a whole, the majority of our news media, and many of our religious organizations have forgotten this. Yet the Lord continues to use means for the protection of his people in every nation. Remember your fellow saints in Afghanistan and pray for their safety, but also for the strength to endure persecution. Don’t be consumed with arguing whose fault this is. Rather, see the Lord’s hand in drawing the strings of history to a close and ushering in the second coming of his Son. When you do this, you will see that there are more Christians in need of prayers than just in Afghanistan. You will also see more clearly how the Lord is calling us to prepare, even in this country, for persecution, for we are in a nation that has rejected God, and now too, the willingness to help his people worldwide.
Originally published October 2021, Vol 80 No 10
 Camille Squires, “A Timeline of US Engagement in Afghanistan,” Quartz, August 16, 2021, https://qz.com/2047556/a-timeline-of-us-involvement-in-afghanistan/.
 Squires, “A Timeline of US Engagement in Afghanistan.”
 Dion Nissenbaum, “Who Are the Taliban and How Did They Conquer Afghanistan?” The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2021.
 Dr. Jim Denison, “The Taliban Are Killing Christians with Bibles on Their Cellphones,” Denison Forum, August 20, 2021.
 Kelsey Zorzi, “Afghanistan’s Christians Are Turning Off Phones and Going into Hiding,” The Hill, August 23, 2021.
 Robin Wright, “Afghanistan, Again, Becomes a Cradle for Jihadism—and Al-Qaeda,” The New Yorker, August 23, 2021.
 Wright, “Afghanistan, Again, Becomes a Cradle for Jihadism—and Al-Qaeda.”
 The Nazarene Fund, “The Nazarene Mission,” accessed August 23, 2021, https://thenazarenefund.org/about-us/#leadership.
 Caleb Parke, “Pray for the Saints: A Song for Afghanistan,” accessed August 30, 2021, https://calebparke.com/pray-for-the-saints-a-song-for-afghanistan/.