Afghanistan and its neighbor Iran share the Persian language. Now that the Taliban will rule from Kabul again, might the countries begin to also share a spiritual trajectory?
In 1979, the shah of Iran was overthrown in an Islamic revolution. The crackdown that followed ended the Western Christian presence in the nation. Yet today the Iranian church is one of the fastest-growing in the world, as the ruthlessness of the mullahs led many to sour on Islam and some to find new faith in Jesus.
Satellite TV ministry played a great role in spreading the gospel in Iran, and continues today across the border in Afghanistan. Christian ministry SAT-7 began broadcasting in 2002 in Farsi, the Persian dialect spoken in Iran, and in 2010 Shoaib Ebadi began its first prerecorded programming in Dari, the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan. His show Secrets of Life went live in 2014, and today is accessible across the whole nation.
The 55-year-old Ebadi was born in Afghanistan but became a Christian in 1999 as a refugee in Pakistan. The following year he emigrated to Canada, and today heads Square One World Media, producing Christian media in various languages around the world.
He told CT about the history of the Afghan church, the impact of the US military upon it, and his hope that “pure Christianity” might now gain a hearing in his homeland.
Some statistics put the number of Christians in Afghanistan at 8,000. Can you give us a brief history of the church?
There was a Protestant church building constructed in 1970 in Kabul during the time of the shah, but it was destroyed when the monarchy was overthrown in 1973. The Catholics had a church in the Italian embassy since 1933. But these churches were only for foreign nationals, not Afghans.
There were a handful of believers in the 1950s, as American professionals came to Afghanistan and opened an eye hospital and a technical college. Later on, in the 1990s, tentmaker missionaries came as English teachers and NGO workers. And I was in a fellowship of about 30–40 Afghan believers in Pakistan. Most eventually went to the West.
These are probably the first Afghans to know Christ in the modern era, but God only knows.
So how did the Afghan church develop after the Americans came in 2001?
Some of the believers from Pakistan, as well as other refugees who fled to Iran, went back to Afghanistan after…
This article was originally published at Christianity Today on August 30, 2021. Please click here to read the full text.