Afghanistan (International Christian Concern) – The Taliban has rejected the latest findings from the U.S. State Department’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom, an annual report that details the status of religious freedom in every country around the world. In a statement issued on the Twitter page of Zabihullah Mujahid, a top spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mujahid claimed that “the religious and civil rights of all minorities in Afghanistan are protected” and that the report was “incomplete and based on false information.”
The State Department’s report, however, identified several violations of religious freedom that occurred as a result of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, most notably being the group’s strict interpretation of sharia that is used to govern members of Afghan society, including Christians. According to the report, “Christians continued to live in constant fear of exposure and were reluctant to reveal their religious identities to anyone.” In addition, some sources found that “Christian converts [could] be considered apostates and subject to execution under strict interpretations of sharia, as had occurred during the time of the Islamic Republic and under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001.” Other concerns raised in the report were the increasing acts of violence against Christian converts. For example, one section highlighted how “…the Taliban takeover emboldened intolerant relatives to threaten them with violence and inform on converts should they continue their practice of Christianity.”
The Taliban’s explicit denial of these documented human rights abuses appears to be part of a larger campaign to rebrand themselves from a violent jihadist group to a more tolerant government, as alluded to in some of Mujahid’s previous statements. Yet the reality on the ground tells a different story, one where Christians and other religious minorities are forced to stay in hiding for fear of deadly persecution. At the conclusion of Mujahid’s recent statement, he claimed that “Sunnis, Shiites, Sikhs, and Hindus practice their religion freely [in Afghanistan],” making no acknowledgment of the estimated 10,000-12,000 Christians who currently reside in the country. This attitude of contempt bodes ill for the future of Christians in Afghanistan, and we continue to pray for their safe keeping as they endure the Taliban’s reign of terror.
This article originally appeared here.