The burqas covering women from head to toe are back. The men with rifles slung across their shoulders have become permanent fixtures on the streets. Just two of many indicators of what life will be like in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Saad and Fatimah, two of the few secret believers in the country, have chosen to stay in their homeland. For more than 40 years, their families have practiced their Christian faith in the shadows.
Today, these believers are daring to send secret messages to the worldwide Church. We can’t disclose much about this couple or how we’re communicating with them. Doing so would put them in grave danger. But what they can tell us are powerful reminders of the fear and faith they’re walking in as Christians in the world’s second-most dangerous country for believers like them.
‘The list has been circulated’
Imagine what would it feel like to be in your home, knowing that the next knock on the door could mean tragedy for you and your family.
For secret believers in Afghanistan, this is the reality they’re living with as the Taliban search homes, looking for anyone connected with the West or Christianity.
“The list has been circulated with our names on it,” Saad says—a list that includes the names of Christians whom the Taliban has targeted, he adds. Since the takeover, Taliban house searches have become a regular occurrence.
“Some [of us] have been killed. Some have been kidnapped, some have disappeared,” Saad shares. “It feels like the morning after a massive cataclysmic explosion.”
Since the Taliban takeover, the secret church in Afghanistan has been scattered– some have fled, some have stayed, some are missing or can’t be contacted.
“We call one another and ask about headaches, shoulder pain, all injuries old health concerns, all in a bid to remain connected,” says Saad. “For now, this is all we can ask.”
He continues: “When the Taliban took control, it was everything we feared. You cannot understand it like I do. I cannot explain it in words.”
Fatimah reminds us that the fear is not new.
“There may be new soldiers in the capital city, but this is not new, these threats,” she explains. “The pain of living for Jesus and risking everything to follow Him, there’s nothing new about that. Not for me, and not for my grandparents who also lived for Him and followed Him. That’s been the reality for Afghan believers for more than 40 years. First, under the Taliban, and then under the American-supported Afghan government, even before the Taliban took control last month.
Hope in the darkness
On August 15, 2021—the night the Taliban took control— Saad says he felt as if someone had stepped into his memories, trying to snuff them out to “speak fear” to him.
That same night, Saad and Fatimah welcomed their baby girl into the world. The significance is not lost on Saad: “A baby girl born to a Christian family on such a fateful night.” That night as the Taliban seized power in Kabul, Saad’s father read Psalm 20 over their newborn from the other side of the curtain where Fatimah laid.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call! (Psalm 20:7-8)
On one side of the room, the men huddled together, acutely aware of what was happening to their country and in their lives.
“We were afraid. We are afraid,” Saad shares.
“These soldiers are not committed to human dignity,” Fatimah adds. “Their eyes are looking all the time how to have power and how to demean anyone who wants to think and dream. It is our thoughts and dreams that need to be preserved and saved. Our faith lives there, in our hearts, and in our minds.”
The measure of love
Since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, secret believers there have shared their dire need for intercessory prayer. One believer even told us, “Prayer is what we need most.”
Saad and Fatima echo that call.
“For us, everything has been taken away,” Saad says. “We need you to ask God on our behalf.”
Even when we can’t be with them physically, we can meet our Afghan family when we come together in prayer. “When you pray, you meet us in the room of God’s throne where we can have communion,” Fatima says.
Saad and Fatima and their families are reading and meditating on John 17—Jesus’ prayers for Himself, His disciples and apostles, and us (“those who will believe in Me through their message” v. 20). The couple is focusing on the measure of love:
“If you love us, pray for us,” Saad says. “This is where we are together: at the foot of the cross, where the full measure of love is known. If you love me—if you love Jesus—pray for us.”
Saad knows that the days, weeks and months, even years, ahead will be difficult for him, his family and all those who follow Jesus in secrecy. He talks about intentional actions he will take as he trusts Christ in Afghanistan:
“It will not be easy,” he says. “I do not know where to begin, but I will begin with encouraging my wife that there is a hope for our daughter.
“We do this because we believe Jesus is here and is alive.”
*representative names and images used for security reasons
Top photo: Local girls look at U.N. workers unloading ballot kits from a U.N. helicopter in Ghumaipayan Mahnow village, some 410 kilometers (256 miles) northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Oct. 4, 2004. By air is the only way to deliver the electoral material in the inaccessible areas of the Badakhshan province. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Stand with secret believers in Afghanistan
Open Doors’ partners enable the church to remain a faithful witness where it’s dangerous to follow Jesus. Will you keep praying, and stand with your faith family in Afghanistan and the surrounding regions—not just for the urgent needs of today, but for tomorrow and the weeks and months to come? Your support today will go toward urgent relief and aid and long-term support for secret believers in the region like Saad and Fatimah as they live their lives for Jesus.