AFGHAN PEACE TALKS KICK OFF IN QATAR
On Saturday 12 September, the long-awaited Intra-Afghan Peace talks, between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban, were opened in Doha, Qatar. The talks were originally planned for March, after the United States-Taliban deal, that was signed in February. As part of the deal, the Afghan government had to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of 1,000 Afghan soldiers, and this process led to the delay of the talks, with the final transfer of prisoners only happening on Friday 11 September. The proceedings were opened on Saturday morning by Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, urging the parties to “rise above all form of division … by reaching an agreement on the basis of no victor and no vanquished“. Other key speakers included Abdullah Abdullah, chairperson of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. During his address, Abdullah said, “I believe that if we give hands to each other and honestly work for peace, the current ongoing misery in the country will end.” While Baradar referred to how important an Islamic system is to them: “We want Afghanistan to be an independent, developed country, and it should have a form of Islamic system, where all its citizens see themselves reflected.” The negotiations between the two parties started on Monday 14 September, with the focus being a permanent ceasefire to the almost 20-year war, as well as the political future of Afghanistan and social equality within the country.
From a Christian perspective, the Church in Afghanistan finds itself in a proverbial catch-22 situation regarding peace between the Afghan government and the Taliban. They long for peace, together with the rest of the Afghan population, but they realise that peace will also lead to further persecution. With the ongoing war, the government has focussed on the Taliban and this has spared the Church from government persecution, with most of the persecution coming from the Taliban. But, if a peace deal should be reached between the government and the Taliban, persecution is expected to increase as the government will no longer be focussed on war, and will also comprise of members of the Taliban who have historically heavily persecuted the Church. An INcontext contact has reported that persecution from both the government and the Taliban is already on the increase, and many church leaders and believers are contemplating fleeing the country. As hard as it is to hear such reports, we have seen throughout history that an increase in persecution can also lead to church growth, and we pray that this will be the case for the Afghan Church as well.
Pray with us for the following:
- For a long-lasting peace agreement to be reached through the talks in Doha
- For the Lord to strengthen, encourage, and protect the Church in Afghanistan
- For the global Church to continue upholding the Church in Afghanistan
Image: REUTERS/Ibraheem Al Omari