Strong challenge issued to Christian groups in Afghanistan

By Ecumenical News International
10 Aug 2007

An Indian church worker, who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan, says that the expatriate Christian community there should present a "more inclusive Jesus" in the war-ravaged nation.

"I was shocked by the religious conservatism among some of the Christians working there," David Selvaraj, a member of the Church of South India, told Ecumenical News International after a week-long trip to Afghanistan in July.

Selvaraj said that at a prayer meeting he attended in Afghanistan, "some of the Christians asserted, 'Afghanistan is under the spell of Satan.'" They seem to have little respect for the local people or their faith.

"I am speaking about what hurt me as a Christian," said Selvaraj, who is well known in Bangalore church circles for conducting training programmes. He was in Afghanistan to carry out staff training at the invitation of a Christian action group working in the country.

If people preached at all about Jesus in a location such as Afghanistan, asserted Selvaraj, they should present "a more inclusive Jesus without alienating the people."

Describing the situation in Afghanistan as "extremely disturbing with destruction all around," Selvaraj said the people of Afghanistan were "looking for a healing touch."

Afghanistan has been in a state of virtual civil war since 1978 following the Soviet occupation that ended in 1989, and during the subsequent take over of the country by the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic group.

In 2001, following terrorist attacks on the United States, a U.S.-led campaign overthrew the Taliban, which has since been engaged in a guerrilla war with the occupying forces.

Selvaraj said that with Christianity being widely perceived as synonymous with Western powers, even the few local Christians in Afghanistan were "scared of speaking about the persecution they face in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation."

"The feeling of insecurity is terrible," said Selvaraj, who went on to explain that some Western Christians in the country carry firearms even in church during services.

When Selvaraj asked a Christian cleric why he allowed guns in church, the pastor replied, "You are new here."

[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]

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