Broken Lives, Unbroken Faith – The Struggle of Exploring Hope amidst Persecution

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; for theirs is the kingdom of  heaven.”

-Matthew 5:10

Religious persecution is an issue that has distressing effects on people of all faiths and  backgrounds around the world. As someone who has experienced religious persecution  myself, I know the devastating impact it can cause to individuals and communities. In this  blog article, I want to share my personal experience and point of view on this matter and shed  light on the importance of this issue.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm  you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

-Jeremiah 29:11

The Unwanted Journey, The Unsought Destination 

My name is Harry Meyerhof, and I am an Afghan who has been living in Islamabad, Pakistan, since the  Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Prior to the Taliban’s arrival, I had been working for  different organizations as an environmental and civil rights activist. However, when the  Taliban took over, I was forced to flee my homeland and seek refuge in a neighboring  country, Pakistan.

As a convert to Christianity, I have experienced religious persecution throughout the years of  my transformation. After converting to Christianity, in Afghanistan, I had to keep my faith a  secret as it seemed illegal to practice any religion other than Islam. Even though my family  was not supportive of my beliefs, they were still worried for me and afraid of the  consequences if my faith was discovered by others . I had to be careful not to draw any  attention to myself and hide my faith from everyone around me. 

After the Taliban seized power, my situation took a turn for the worse. I lived in constant fear  and was afraid to even step out of my home. Although staying hidden from others insured  my safety, it also deprived me of my freedom and peace of mind. To make matters worse,  one of my Muslim neighbors reported my Christian beliefs to the Taliban, putting my life and  the lives of my family members at great risk. I had received death threats not only for  myself, but my family as well. In the face of this imminent threat, I had no choice but to flee and evacuate Afghanistan as soon as possible. I had to leave behind my home, my  possessions, and everything in search of safety and security.

Fleeing Afghanistan was not an easy task, and it required me to take great risks. We had to  travel through dangerous and illicit terrain, endure the harshest of conditions in order to reach  Pakistan. We traveled through the night, often on foot, with little food or water. We  were constantly in danger of being caught by the Taliban or Pakistani border militants, and  we had to be extremely cautious and alert at all times. The journey was filled with  uncertainty, danger, and fear, but we had absolutely no choice but to press on in search of a  safer haven for ourselves.

Finally, after days of grueling travel, we arrived in Pakistan. While we were relieved to have  made it out of Afghanistan alive, we soon realized that our struggles were far from over. We  were now refugees in a foreign land, with no home and no money, but a little hope for our  well-being and safety. We had to rely on our devotion to God, kindness of strangers and the  support of aid organizations to survive. It was a very difficult time for my family and me, but  we were determined to make the most out of it and start anew. We had no other options.

The Much-Wanted Strength, The Much-Needed Faith 

In the midst of all this hardship and struggle, my faith in God remained unshaken. If  anything, my experiences have strengthened my resolve and deepened my faith. I had  witnessed the worst of humanity in the Taliban’s cruelty and intolerance, but I had also seen  the best of humanity in the kindness and compassion of those who helped us along the way. I  believe my journey has been a difficult one, but it has also been a testament to the resilience  and strength of the human spirit, as well as a way to discover the grace and greatness of the  Holy spirit.

Despite the challenges, I remained committed to my faith and continued to seek knowledge  and guidance from the Holy Bible. As I learned more about Christianity, I found myself  drawn to its message of love, compassion, and forgiveness. I knew that this was the path I  wanted to follow, no matter the risks I had to take.

While being in Pakistan for illegal migrants like us is not a walk in the park, I am still  grateful for the little extent and sense of safety and security I have found here through the  grace of God. However, I still feel the pain of leaving my home country and the loved ones I  had left behind. It breaks my heart to think of the thousands or millions of people around the  world who are facing similar situations, but have no place to turn.

Sadly, my story is just one example of religious persecution in Afghanistan. The Taliban  takeover in August 2021 has only made things worse, particularly for religious minorities  such as Christians. According to a report by Open Doors USA in 2021, Afghanistan ranked second on the World Watch List of countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian.  The report highlights that Christians in Afghanistan are considered apostates and are at risk of  being killed or attacked by family members or community members. Christians who convert  from Islam face the most severe persecution, and those who practice their faith openly are at  the greatest risk of harm.

I believe religious persecution is a complex issue that affects people in different ways. For  some, it means facing discrimination or harassment in their daily lives. For others, it means  being forced to flee their homeland and seek refuge in a foreign country. Regardless of the 

form it takes, religious persecution is a violation of human rights and a matter that needs to be  addressed more seriously.

‘The religion which requires persecution to sustain it is of the devil’s propagation.’ -Hosea Ballou

The Ruthless Persecution, The Relentless Appeal-for-Action

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan, my fears became a reality. Christians and other  religious minorities were targeted and persecuted for their beliefs. The Taliban’s brutal  regime is known to implement strict Islamic law, which makes it even more dangerous for  individuals like me who practiced a different faith. The impact of the Taliban’s takeover on  religious minorities and the need for global action to address religious persecution in  Afghanistan are of utmost priority given the hostile demeanor of Taliban.

The Taliban’s cruel conduct toward religious minorities, particularly Christians, is a grave  concern. It is well known that they have a history of oppressing non-Muslims and even  moderate Muslims, such as Hazara Shias, who don’t believe in their extremist beliefs. During  their previous rule, they had implemented Sharia law and imposed harsh punishments like  amputations and public executions for crimes like theft, adultery, and religious apostasy. Though they might commit these atrocities behind the scenes, it is no different this time around.

Moreover, religious minorities faced severe restrictions by practicing their faith, and many  were even forced to convert to Islam. Churches and other places of worship, such as the  Buddha statues of Bamyan, were destroyed, and Christians were forced to hide their beliefs  or face persecution. The situation has not improved under their current rule, and in some  cases, it may have gotten even worse. A report by the U.S. Commission on International  Religious Freedom (USCIRF) indicates that Taliban continue to persecute religious  minorities and punish residents with their extreme interpretation of Islamic law.

As someone who has converted to Christianity, I am deeply concerned about the safety of my  fellow Christians in Afghanistan. I, myself, have heard dozens of stories of Christian  families, some from the persecuted families themselves, being forced to flee their homes and  seek refuge in neighboring countries, fearing for their lives. The Taliban’s disregard for  human rights and religious freedom is a threat not only to Christians but to all people and  their integrity in Afghanistan.

As a Christian convert in Afghanistan, I was constantly living in fear of being persecuted for my beliefs. The Taliban’s takeover and rise to power has made things much more distressing for religious minorities like me in the country. The daily news and updates of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and other religious minorities being targeted, and many being  forced to flee the country to avoid persecution, are proven and crystal-clear examples. Like this, the Taliban’s cruel behavior toward religious minorities is just one of  several examples of how religious persecution is becoming increasingly common across the globe.

In conclusion, the issue of religious persecution is a deeply troubling issue that affects  millions of people, individuals and communities alike, across the world. My personal  experiences of religious persecution in Afghanistan has given me a unique perspective on this  devastating issue, and I believe that it is high time we take a strong stance against it. The  situation in Afghanistan is just one of the many examples of how religious persecution can  take place in the most brutal ways. We need to work together to create a more tolerant and  accepting world where people of all religions and beliefs can live in peace and harmony. It is  crucial that we work together to promote religious freedom and tolerance, and hold those who  engage in religious persecution accountable for their actions. We must not let extremist  ideologies like the Taliban’s destroy the fabric of our society and threaten the basic human  rights of individuals.

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