20 January 2022, The Tablet

Afghanistan 'most dangerous place to be Christian'

Afghanistan 'most dangerous place to be Christian'

The perils of being known as a Christian in Afghanistan are
Open Doors

Afghanistan is the most dangerous place to be a Christian after the Taliban takeover has emboldened Islamist extremists worldwide, a new report shows. 
Afghanistan has replaced North Korea at the top of the World Watch List. North Korea was the worst for Christian persecution on the annual list for 20 years, but has dropped to second place, even though persecution there also increased.
The World Watch List, by Open Doors UK and Ireland, records persecution and discrimination worldwide. According to the latest list, more than 360 million Christians suffered high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith – a rise of 20 million on the previous year. 
The number represents one in seven Christians worldwide, the highest levels of persecution since the the list was first published 29 years ago.
The World Watch List 2022 reporting period was from 1 October 2020 until 30 September 2021. 
In Afghanistan, where the Christian population is small and hidden, the report finds that Christian men face almost certain death if their faith is discovered. Women and girls may escape death but may be married to young Taliban fighters who want “spoils of war”. After women and girls are raped, they are trafficked. 
The report says that after the Taliban government gained access to recordings and reports that helped to identify Christians inside the country, they were often detained and made to identify further networks of Christians before finally being killed. 
Meanwhile, the fall of Kabul has fuelled a new mood of invulnerability among other jihadist groups worldwide, the report says.
The groups believe that they will not face serious opposition from the West for their expansionist agendas and are exploiting nations with weak or corrupt governments. The report warns of signs of escalating violence in countries such as Nigeria (#7), Mali (#24), CAR (#31), Burkina Faso (#32), Niger (#33) and DRC (#40) – countries with already high levels of violence.  
In Nigeria a total of 4,650 Christians were recorded as killed – 79 per cent of the worldwide total. 
“The rise of Afghanistan to the top of the World Watch List is deeply troubling,” said Henrietta Blyth, chief executive of Open Doors. “Apart from the incalculable suffering it represents, it sends out a very clear message to Islamic extremists everywhere: ‘You can continue your brutal fight for influence, unchecked.’ Factions like Islamic State and Alliance of Democratic Forces now see their goal of an Islamic caliphate, once thwarted in Iraq and Syria, as, once again, achievable. The cost in human lives and misery this new-found sense of invincibility is causing, and will continue to cause, is hard to overstate.” 

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