Identity Crisis: Rebuilding The Lives of Afghan Christians - Hope 103.2

Identity Crisis: Rebuilding The Lives of Afghan Christians

Some of the most vulnerable refugees from Afghanistan are Christians, who have fled to India—where their poverty and persecution continues.

By Clare BruceWednesday 4 May 2016FaithReading Time: 3 minutes

Listen: Jude Simeon of Barnabas Fund in Australia talks to Clare Chate about the struggle of Christian refugees from Afghanistan.

For nearly 30 years, Afghanistan has been under the dark cloud of war—in one form or another, creating a refugee crisis as millions flee to other lands, searching for peace.

Some of the most vulnerable of these refugees are Christians, who are under religious persecution.

Most Afghan Christians flee to India—one the few places they can get to beyond their own borders, and they suffer not only poverty and displacement, but also a sense of lost identity, as they struggle to express their faith.

One organisation working to support the Afghan Christians stranded in India, is Barnabas Fund.

Jude Simeon, the Chief Operations Officer of Barnabas Fund in Australia, told Hope 103.2 that they face many complex challenges as they wait and pray for resettlement.

“The Afghan Christians in India face a number of difficulties,” he said. “One is language. They can’t go to an Indian church. Secondly, they are stateless as they wait for UNHCR to resettle them, so they can’t work, or do higher studies. They struggle with stigma because the acceptance of asylum seekers is low.

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“And being a refugee from a Muslim background, they are targeted by Muslim communities in India, because they are subject to Sharia law. If people find out they are converts they can be harmed.

“They have fled from persecution but their persecution is not yet over.”

Refugees Suffering In An Identity Crisis

An Afghani woman

Mr Simeon told the story of a 13-year-old Afghan girl called Noor, whose complex background and circumstances have left her with a crisis of identity.

“Noor’s grandparents grew up during the communist regime, during the Russian occupation and they were primarily atheists,” Mr Simeon said. “Her parents were more Islamic because during the Taliban regime they were forced to practice Islam.

“Then after the coalition forces had taken over the country they came in contact with the Gospel and became Christians. That made their lives more vulnerable so they fled to India.”

Noor’s mixture of experiences have left her confused.

“She is confused about her identity,” Mr Simeon said. “People look at her and think she is Muslim, she goes to school in India and is forced to participate in Hindu rituals, she goes to church on Sunday and in her heart she is different. She loves Jesus but she is confused.

“This is a common dilemma, not just for Noor but for most of the refugee children, particular in an asylum seeker context. They struggle for their identity.”

Barnabas Fund works to support girls like Noor and their families by providing food aid, support for their education, and encouragement for their faith as they wait to one day be resettled.

More Zealous In Faith Than Western Believers

Map of Afghanistan

Afghan Christians who have gone through suffering for their faith tend to be fearless in their love for Jesus, said Mr Simeon.

“What I have seen among the Afghans is zealousness for their faith,” he said. “Some of them go into the hospital and interpret for Afghans who are coming to India for medical treatment, and they also share the gospel with them—knowing that is not acceptable in India and that it can further escalate their persecution.

“Even in the context of persecution they want to demonstrate and share their faith.

“Also talking and sharing a meal with them, what I have come to understand is that they are stronger than us [Western Christians] in their faith.”

The Prayer Request Of Afghan Christians

Afghan Christians in India are mostly living in rented houses in and around Delhi, and some have been living in limbo as asylum seekers for up to eight years. Mr Simeon said their biggest prayer is that they will be resettled.

“Their hope is that one day they will be resettled in countries like Australia or Canada who take refugees, and that this process would be expedited,” he said. “They hope that one day their children and families can have a future because in the Afghani constitution, a person who changes religion will be prosecuted under their constitutional law. They cannot go back.”

More Info

See the Barnabas Fund website to learn more about their work or help them to support persecuted Christians worldwide.