Dear prayer partners,

On Saturday 3 October, about 15 people were killed and over 40 injured in a suicide car bomb that targeted a government building in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The car bomb was detonated at the entrance of the district headquarters building; and several armed attackers then tried to enter the building but were killed by security forces. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Throughout this year, the Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban have both carried out numerous attacks against the Afghan government, national security, and defence personnel, which has also killed many civilians. This latest attack came as representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban are engaged in peace talks in Doha, to end the country’s war. 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. The peace talks then began in earnest on 12 September.

The Taliban are seeking a more Islamic religious system in Afghan society and governance – calling for a greater role for religious leaders in policy and law-making, and greater promotion of religious education. However, Afghanistan already has a constitution that upholds an Islamic legal system and their current government believe that their system is sufficient. Their focus of the peace talks is to protect the progress made in the country over the last two decades, including women’s rights, freedom of expression and electoral democracy. However, for there to be peace, there will need to be a reconciliation in these two perspectives and agreement on what the Islamic governance will look like.

Afghanistan is home to about 37 million people, where only about 0.1% of the population profess to be Christian. In official eyes, there are no Afghan Christians. The few Afghans who practise their faith in Jesus, do so in private for fear of persecution, attending ‘underground’ churches. With the ongoing war, the government has focussed on the Taliban, which has alleviated some of the persecution on the Afghan Church. Once peace is reached with the Taliban, the future Afghanistan government could include some of its members, and the focus could again return to the Church and persecution would increase and possibly become more severe.  An INcontext contact has reported that persecution from both the government and the Taliban is already on the increase and that they are being interrogated by officials. 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.

Please join with us in praying for a lasting breakthrough to the ongoing conflict and for our family in Afghanistan.

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” (J. Sidlow Baxter)