Afghanistan is now the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian, according to a new report.
Christian charity Open Doors has ranked the Muslim country at the top of its 2022 World Watch List (WWL), which records global levels of persecution towards Christians.
Afghanistan has replaced North Korea – which has remained at the top of the list for 20 years, despite persecution also rising there this year.
Research reveals that the country’s Taliban takeover in 2021 has had devastating consequences for its Christian population with a large number being forced to flee or go into hiding.
Most believers in the country are Christian converts from Islam and face torture, imprisonment and execution if they are discovered.
Following the sudden withdrawal of US and UK troops from Afghanistan in August 2021, a number of reports and recordings were left behind which have allowed the Taliban to identify Christian communities there.
Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO, Henrietta Blyth says Islamic extremists there are now actively hunting out Christians to eradicate them from the country.
“They want to create a pure Islamic state and they have reintroduced Sharia law.
“If found, men are detained, interrogated and then killed. Women and girls can be subject to forced marriage, imprisonment and if raped they are often trafficked as a result.
“The situation for Christians in Afghanistan is absolutely horrific at the moment.”
Christians who have fled to neighboring nations remain vulnerable to attack as all of the surrounding countries also feature on the Open Doors WWL.
Christian refugee Zabi fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
According to OpenDoors, she was a target for the Taliban due to her activity in the area of human rights.
Five years ago her father was tortured and killed for his faith. Two years later her Christian brother disappeared.
Zabi was not safely removed from Afghanistan when international forces left last year and would be in grave danger if she was to return to the country.
Open Doors is supporting Zabi with food, accommodation and money to ensure her safety.
The charity is calling on the UK government to recognise faith as a vulnerability and help at-risk believers like Zabi access support.
“We are asking the UK government to ensure that Afghan Christians are able to access the Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme here in the UK.
“And that the government recognises that peoples’ faith can make them even more vulnerable.
“The key [to helping protect persecuted Christians] is for freedom of religion and belief to be upheld in every country around the world.
“Our government has said they want to raise human rights issues as part of their foreign policy and trade negotiations and we want to see them do that.”