Christians in Afghanistan are fleeing for their lives under cover of darkness as the Taliban continues its intense persecution of religious minorities.
Release International partners helped one Christian family fearful for their lives escape from the country in the middle of the night.
Tareq, his wife and their one-year-old girl left without even saying goodbye to their friends or family and are now being cared for by partners in Brazil.
While in Afghanistan, they feared they were in grave danger after hearing that the Taliban were going door-to-door searching for Christians in hiding.
They became Christians several years ago and were secret believers even before the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021.
When the Taliban took power, they started searching for suspected Christians and ransacking their homes. It is feared that some Christians were even killed and others imprisoned.
“Growing numbers of Christians across the world are being targeted because of their faith and are having to flee,” said Paul Robinson, Release International CEO.
“Their lives are at risk from militants, their families, and in some cases the authorities, as in Afghanistan.”
Release International’s Christmas appeal focuses on providing aid and assistance to Christian believers who have been forced to flee to other countries because of persecution.
“Their stories today echo that of Mary and Joseph, who had to escape to Egypt to protect their new-born son, Jesus,” said Mr Robinson.
It is uncertain how many Christians remain Afghanistan because many of them keep their faith secret because of the risks. Even though the Christian community is very small, Release partners believe the numbers are growing.
Many are converts from a Muslim background making them apostates in the eyes of their Muslim family members and neighbours.
They live with the constant threat of being reported to the authorities or even killed.
Release warned of an additional threat because of the Taliban’s harsh punishment for ‘seditionists’, which is anyone believed to be working for a different form of government.
“And Christians, whose first allegiance is to Christ, rather than the Taliban, are likely to be considered seditionists,” it said.