Persecuted but Not Abandoned

Andreas Steffensen

An Afghan Christian family flees from the Taliban and finds hope in a new place, thanks to World Challenge’s partners in the Middle East.

When Nelum* discovered that her husband, Amjad*, an Afghan worker and father of three, secretly was reading the Bible every day after work, she was shocked and frightened. How could he risk their future and their very lives studying the book of a banned, foreign religion?

Even before the Taliban retook control of the country in August 2021, turning to Christ was a choice of great consequence. It was common for the extended family or clan to disown Christian members. Families would even kill those who were discovered to follow Christ because of the shame cast over the entire family.

Despite the risk, Amjad continued reading his Bible, and Nelun would curiously ask him what he was learning. At first, Amjad was very apprehensive sharing about Isa Al Masih (Jesus) with Nelun, but he eventually opened up. “Since then, we started to have discussions about what he was reading,” Nelum told us. “By the end of 2018 we decided to join a group of believers who were meeting regularly.” Soon, Amjad and Nelum were baptized. “Life was suddenly totally different,” said Nelum. “We had a great peace and joy in our lives. Every week we would wait for Friday so we could go and meet with other believers. Our leaders were sharing with others, and more people were coming to Christ.”

Despite the risk of severe persecution, small groups and individuals throughout the country were seeking God, experiencing the same peace and joy Amjad and Nelum had found. These believers, though, represent just 0.02 percent of Afghanistan’s 39 million population that is almost entirely Muslim.

When the Taliban retook Afghanistan, the situation for the country’s believers got considerably worse.

The Taliban made Islamic Sharia law the legal standard, and they began actively hunting down Christian converts. Amjad and Nelum were not immune to this. Their group, one of several World Challenge sponsored Bible study groups, stopped meeting out of safety concerns. Amjad and Nelum were forced to flee to a different province and eventually to a nearby country. Once there, funds supplied by donors like you helped them start a new life.

“My husband’s family started to call him and threaten that they would find him and kill us all,” Nelum told us. “When my husband shared it with me, we prayed, and our leaders asked us to leave for [another country]. They put us in contact with a brother who arranged for us to cross the border. We had very little money and only four pairs of clothes. We were praying and asking our Father how we would survive.”

The following day, a local World Challenge partner was able to answer that prayer. They were able to supply Amjad, Nelum and the other families with much needed funds that would put their minds at ease. “This was a huge surprise, because we were so ashamed to ask,” Nelum said. “Our Father put this on their hearts to help us.”

Amjad and Nelum hid in a village for a week, waiting for other Christian families to join them. Once everyone had gathered, the group of four families eventually made it across the border in a nighttime rescue. A team of believers picked them up and drove them to a pre-arranged place, where another team would take over, driving them a bit further, using the darkness as cover. Ajman, Nelum and the other believers eventually made it to a safehouse.

“We were given a room, and food was ready for us,” explained Nelum. “That night, as the kids went to bed, my husband and I prayed, thanking God for bringing us to safety and asking him to show us the way forward.”

Safely outside Afghanistan, our local partner ministry is coordinating daily Bible studies, prayer, and worship for the Afghan refugee believers.

“There isn’t a single day when we do not have a great time of fellowship, praying, singing and learning from each other,” Nelum said. “It was a dream when we were living in our country. I wish it was under different circumstances and in our country, but we always knew that this could happen.” Such is the faith of many Afghan believers who know better than most that a life following Isa Al Masih can come at a great price. In 2022, Afghanistan ranked number one on the World Watch List, a persecution index published by Open Doors.

World Challenge’s work with the Afghan believers isn’t limited to getting them to safety, though. We want them to thrive. We long for them to continue growing as Christians, leading other Afghans to Christ and learning new ways to support themselves in the country where they now, at least temporarily, call home.

“For the last few days, we have been going through training that teaches us how to share the good news with others and start new groups. Also, we’re going to learn how we can start businesses so we can start our lives in this new place,” Nelum told us, outlining some of the evangelism and business trainings with which our local partner is equipping them.

“Whenever we ask the people who are helping us, who is supporting them, we always get the answer that brothers and sisters from around the world are sending these funds to help provide food and a place to live,” Nelum said. “Every day there are new challenges. It seems like we’re living in the days of the early church, where God is forcing us to leave our places. I still feel sad when I think about my family, my mother, father and siblings. But God gave us a lot more! His joy and peace fill our hearts. Now we pray that we can use our lives for his glory.”

While Ajman and Nelum have experienced their share of persecution, God has not abandoned them. Your support of World Challenge ensures that they, along with other Christian Afghan refugees, are discipled and taught to lead others to Christ, while also learning business skills that will allow them to provide for their children. “I want to thank you all on behalf of my family and many others who are helped and supported by you to start a new life,” Nelum said. “Your investment saved us for eternity!”


*Not real name. For our ministry partners’ security, we don’t release names or locations in highly sensitive areas.