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AFGHANISTAN: Special FORB Newsletter (16-23 August 2021)

 

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) calls on the State Department to expand its Priority 2 (P-2) designation granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) access for certain Afghan nationals and their family members to include members of religious groups at extreme risk of persecution by the Taliban.
“The Taliban’s imposition of their harsh and strict interpretation of Sunni Islam in the areas that they have taken over poses a grave threat to all Afghans of differing interpretations and other faiths or beliefs. The outlook for the country’s religious minorities is particularly bleak, with threats of Taliban persecution mounting,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza. “As Afghans are forced to flee their homes on account of their beliefs, the U.S. government must ensure that the most vulnerable among them have a pathway to seek refuge in the United States.”
23.08.2021 – Are India’s emergency visas for Afghans issued based on religion?
India’s past citizenship policy, which critics say excludes Muslims, has raised questions as to who is eligible for special new humanitarian visas for Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban.
Days after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, the Indian government introduced a new category of visa to fast-track the applications of Afghans who want to come to India and flee what has become a growing humanitarian crisis.
It was announced that all Afghans, irrespective of their religion, could apply for the so-called e-Emergency X-Misc Visa online.
However, the announcement of the fast-tracked visas kicked up controversy in India over whether there would indeed be religious discrimination in determining eligibility.
23.08.2021- Australia Church leaders call on govt to take in more Afghan refugees
Australia should allow in at least 20,000 Afghan refugees, according to Australian Catholic Bishop Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane.
Thousands of people have been trying to flee Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country, adding to the already 2.2 million refugees in other countries.
The Australian government announced last week it would take 3,000 refugees from the Central Asian nation.
In a letter to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Coleridge called on the government to raise that number to at least 20,000.
23.08.2021 – What collapse of the Afghan gov’t means for Christians and other religious minorities
On Oct. 19, 2001, as I drove to a prayer breakfast in the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond, the radio crackled with news of U.S. special forces on the ground in Afghanistan.
This was not a particularly shocking development since air and missile strikes in retaliation for 9/11 had started 12 days earlier.
Then religion editor for The Oklahoman, I quoted the breakfast’s keynote speaker — Steve Largent, a Pro Football Hall of Fame member then serving in Congress — in the story I wrote.
20.08.2021 – USCIRF Calls on U.S. Government to Include Religious Minority Communities in Afghanistan in Evacuations
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the United States government to include religious minority communities facing severe risk in evacuations to escape persecution from the Taliban. The imposition of the Taliban’s harsh and strict interpretation of Islam in the areas that they have taken over violates the freedom of religion or belief of Afghans who do not share these beliefs.
“The reports of the Taliban searching for religious minorities in Afghanistan are deeply troubling,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza stated. “USCIRF urges the United States government to support religious minority communities to help them leave and provide expedited processing to a safe location.”
21.08.2021 – Afghanistan: Thousands facing religious persecution
‘There are lots of other minorities in Afghanistan right now. But to be honest, for around two years they have been in hiding…they’ve seen the end game coming.’
Ryan Christopher, from the Alliance Defending Freedom UK, warns of the danger thousands are facing in Afghanistan. 
20.08.2021 – RFI Executive Vice President Weighs In On The Current Threat to Religious Minorities in Afghanistan
RFI’s Executive Vice President Eric Patterson recently commented on the rapid, alarming takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and the implications for religious freedom in the country. Christians and Shia Muslims have faced state persecution in the past and are at risk of increased discrimination and violence under Taliban rule.
In an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, Patterson highlighted the religious freedom violations occurring in Afghanistan long before the Taliban took control of the country in recent days
20.08.2021 – As vulnerable Afghans flee Kabul, US faith groups prepare to aid them
Faith-based refugee resettlement groups are mobilizing to help Afghans as they arrive — and from afar.
In early August, as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah reported to Fort Lee, an Army post in Virginia, to welcome and offer legal assistance to Afghans who aided the U.S. during its decades in the country. The people she met — Afghans with Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs, but little else — were racked with mixed emotions after being evacuated.
20.08.2021 – Papal foundation warns of ‘bleak future’ for religious freedom in Afghanistan
There’s an estimated 200 Catholics in Afghanistan – a tiny minority within the minority of around 7,000 Christians – and days after the Taliban took control of the country following the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a papal charity is sounding the alarm over their situation.
Aid to the Church in Need said it sees “a black future for religious freedom” in Afghanistan.
Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman of the Taliban, declared on Twitter that it’s now officially the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
19.08.2021 – What will happen to the Christians in Afghanistan?
With the events of the last few days, we can only expect the pressure to increase, making the living conditions of Christians even more difficult, if possible. By Ted Blake.
On 16 August, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) issued a call to prayer for the country of Afghanistan. In the statement, WEA General Secretary Bishop Dr Thomas Schirrmacher said:
“We are deeply concerned about recent developments in Afghanistan and the dire prospects for all those who do not fit into the Taliban vision of society. Women, who will be among those who have the most to lose, will likely again be prevented from enjoying basic rights, including tertiary education, professional careers and even freedom to move around on their own”.
19.08.2021 – In Afghanistan, a dark future for religious freedom
ON AUG. 19, 2021, the 102nd anniversary of the country’s independence from British rule, Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, declared Afghanistan as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” on the Taliban’s official Twitter account.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), expresses profound concerns about the future of the country:
“During the rule of the previous Emirate of Afghanistan (1996 to 2001), the Taliban imposed a strict version of sharia law nationwide. We can expect that Sunni Islam will be the official religion, that Sharia law will be reimposed, and that hard-won respect for human rights, including a relative measure of religious freedom during the last 20 years will be revoked.
18.08.2021 – ‘Give refugee status to fleeing Afghan nationals, irrespective of religion’, CPI MP Binoy Viswam writes to Prime Minister
Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam on Wednesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accord refugee status to all Afghan nationals fleeing that country after the Taliban took control, irrespective of their religion.
“Our first priority should be to ensure the safe return of all Indian citizens currently residing in Afghanistan,” Mr. Viswam wrote, adding, “In light of India’s international position and role in South Asia, it is imperative that we allow refugees regardless of their religion. I request the Centre to extend refugee status to all Afghan citizens who wish to relocate to India in view of the resurgence of Taliban.”
The CPI leader said all humanitarian assistance should be provided to citizens and students who are already living in India.
17.08.2021 – Ecumenical, evangelical church world groups gravely concerned after Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
The World Council of Churches and the World Evangelical Alliance are both deeply concerned over the take-over of Afghanistan by the Taliban who in the past have been known especially for the persecution of religious minorities and the suppression of women.
“People who have already suffered for decades from armed conflict, displacement, oppression, corruption and bad governance have once again been cast into fear and uncertainty as a result of the dramatic developments over the past few days,” said the WCC’s Marianne Ejdersten.
17.08.2021 – Christian family in Afghanistan appeals to pope to help them flee persecution
Alì Ehsani, 32, knows what life can be like for Christians under the Taliban regime. Born in Kabul in 1989, he and his brother fled when he was 8 after the murder of his parents by the Islamic extremists.
“I know firsthand how difficult it is to be Christians in that country,” Ehsani told Religion News Service on Monday (Aug. 16). “I lived through the horror, the terror of these Taliban.”  
Ehsani made it to Rome in 2003 after a five-year journey that he detailed in two books, “Tonight We Watch the Stars” and “The Kids Have Big Dreams.” In 2015, he earned a law degree from a university in Rome.
16.08.2021 – What a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan means for Christians
“The Taliban has been ‘waiting in the wings’ these last 20 years, ever since they were pushed out of power. Now it seems within a few weeks they will control the entire country,” Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says.
“It is not good news for our Christian brothers and sisters. It’s not good news for anybody in Afghanistan.”
In a matter of days, the Taliban quickly gained control of Afghanistan’s second-and third-largest cities, giving it momentum and territorial strength. By Friday, only three towns remained under government control, and one was under siege. The United Nations warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe as foreign diplomats and citizens alike flooded out of the country.
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