As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates, Winnipegger Shoaib Ebadi is even more fearful for those close to him there – and for his Christian minority.
“They are in a life threatening situation,” he said of the chaos in the country.
Her sister, a secondary school principal, and her family stay inside; women don’t venture out of the house, he said.
“The Taliban said women should stay home,” Ebadi said. “My sister is scared. She cries a lot when we speak.”
Her school is closed, he said, noting that her husband and other men in the family are going out to buy essentials.
“They stocked up earlier… but these things will run out in a few weeks,” he said, adding that they didn’t know what they would do then.
His sister tried to come to Canada but received no response to emails to the Canadian government, he said.
Ebadi, who is executive director of Square One World Media, which broadcasts Christian programs around the world, fears for the safety of Afghanistan’s small number of Christians.
Although he has not heard direct testimony from Christians persecuted by the Taliban, Christians there are hiding Bibles and deleting Christian material from their phones.
Right now, it is impossible to do anything for them other than pray, he said, adding that the church in Afghanistan is new.
“It has grown rapidly over the past 20 years,” he said, unlike churches in other countries in the region which have been around for centuries.
Many Christians in Afghanistan converted after the country gained more freedom after the US-led military invasion. This included access to Christian programming from abroad.
Believers do not meet in churches, he said, but rather meet in homes for worship services and Bible studies.
“We have to remember them now,” he said. “I want to help all the Afghan people, but my heart is now with the Christians of this country.”
While encouraging Canadian Christians to be made aware of the plight of Christians in Afghanistan, he cautioned against believing anything people might see on social media.
“We must avoid exaggeration and extremes,” he said of unconfirmed reports of executions of Christians.
Without ruling out the possibility that it might happen, “It doesn’t help the situation,” he said.
Reza Salari is the pastor of the Persian Fellowship Church in Winnipeg, which is made up of people from Iran and Afghanistan.
“The situation in Afghanistan is very difficult,” said Salari, from Iran.
The people of this country in his church “are very sad,” he said. “We don’t know what the future holds.”
What adds to their concern is that Western Union has suspended money transfers to Afghanistan, which means they can no longer send financial support to loved ones there.
If the Canadian government opens a special program to bring Afghan refugees to Canada, his church is ready to help, he said.
For now, all he can do is bring comfort to his members, and “pray and have hope.”
John Longhurst has written for the Winnipeg religious pages since 2003. He also writes for the Religion News Service in the United States and blogs on media, marketing and communications at Making the News.
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