Afghanistan: Christians Under Taliban Rule

August 24, 2021
Fr. Gianni Scalese and his little flock

After the fall of the Afghan capital on August 15, 2021 to the hands of the Taliban, partisans seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate, the situation of the few Christians present in the country seems more than precarious, as confirmed by the testimonies of the missionaries present in the country.

“We are still here, the situation does not allow me to give interviews. I reiterate my call to pray. Fr. Gianni Scalese, confined to the Italian embassy, ​​responded by email from Kabul, which had fallen into Taliban hands.

This embassy contains the only chapel in the country, not counting the prefabricated buildings that were erected by the U.S. military. These temporary chapels are also being destroyed by the Taliban.

The 66-year-old Cleric Regular of St. Paul (or Barnabite) is the superior of the mission sui juris in Afghanistan, the equivalent of a mission territory diocese. He is one of the few Catholic priests present in the country.

He launched an appeal for prayers for what is happening in the country, relayed by the Italian media, on August 18, 2021: “Fr. Gianni is still in Kabul and has invited us to pray. Given the situation, there are fears for the future of this small Christian presence.”

In 2018, in the columns of a Chinese Catholic news site based in Macao - O Clarim – Fr. Scalese referred to the Catholic presence in Afghanistan in these terms: “The Afghan Church is made up of the international community, composed of diplomatic and technical staff. A dozen years ago there were also a lot of foreign workers - mostly Filipinos - who had to leave the country because they were supposedly taking jobs from Afghans. Today, there are only a few left.”

Historically, some Nestorian Christian communities were established between the 6th and 9th centuries. “In the 7th century, the Islamic conquest happened, but it did not lead to an immediate demise of Christianity. The Christian presence was not eradicated from Afghanistan until the 14th century,” said the religious.

It was not until 1933 that the Clerics Regular of Saint Paul arrived in the country.

“Afghanistan has never been a Christian country. Today, at least officially, there are no more Afghan Christians. ... Since its establishment, the Catholic mission has never baptized any Afghan citizen. To do so would mean risking their lives,” because any apostolate is severely repressed.

The third article of the Afghan constitution actually provides “that no law may be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.”

On August 17, Asianews reported the testimony of an Indian Jesuit ministering in the country, Fr. Robert Rodrigues.

According to him, at the present time, the Taliban are busy taking over the state apparatus: “They do not threaten the lives of civilians, but they will do so when they have taken full control of the system,” assures the Jesuit.

In this land where the Koran reigns supreme, Jesus Christ is loathed and banished, to the great misfortune of these countries “sitting in darkness... and in the region of the shadow of death.”