Islam has been the state religion of Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in 1996. Muslims make up more than 99 percent of the population; 85-90 percent of Afghan Muslims are Sunni and the remaining minority are Shia. Other religious groups, including Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, and Christians, together make up an estimated 0.3 percent of the population. The number of Christian believers has grown in recent years although as converts they must exercise great care in sharing their faith and only meet in secret.
According to the constitution, followers of other religions are free to practise their religion within the limits of the law. Conversion from Islam, however, is punishable by death (for a man) or life imprisonment (for a woman), and blasphemy is also a capital offence. Proselytising or publicising another religion is illegal, and converts from Islam face societal pressure and harassment.
Afghanistan is an ethnically diverse country of many tribes and ethnic groups, the largest being the Pashtuns and the Tajiks. Modern-day Afghanistan came into being in 1747, when the Pashtun tribes fought for independence from the Persian Empire. The British ruled the country during the 19th century and until 1919, during which time Afghans fought several times against British rule.
Afghan governments since independence have a history of instability, mass unpopularity, and reliance on foreign intervention. The country has endured decades of continuous war, including major invasions by the Soviets in 1979, the Pakistani military in the late 1990s, and the US-led forces who overthrew the Taliban in 2001.
Most US forces and other members of the International Security Assistance Force withdrew in 2014. The departure of remaining foreign troops and contractors who maintained military air support resulted in the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021.
Population: 37.5 million. Crime and violent conflict have resulted in a turbulent and unpredictable way of life for many Afghans. The country is one of the least developed in the world. More than a third of the population lives below the poverty line, and the average life expectancy is just 51 – the third lowest in the world. Afghanistan has the world’s highest infant mortality rate, and the literacy rate is just 38 percent. There is a great lack of qualified teachers. The return of the Taliban in 2021 triggered widespread security and human rights concerns and an exodus of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreign workers with professional skills.
Dari, Pashto, Turkic languages (Uzbek and Turkmen), plus 30 minor languages
- Pray for the rule of law and respect for human rights of all, including women and ethnic and religious minorities.
- Pray for peace between Afghanistan’s many people groups and that they will be able to work together to rebuild their country.
- Pray that God will protect Christian believers in Afghanistan, who are often isolated and vulnerable.
- Pray for development in Afghanistan that will result in improved quality of life for all.
37,466,414 (Jul 21 estimate)