The upheaval of the last 40 years reduced the country to ruin and destitution. War led to over 1 million deaths, and left up to 4 million orphans. Most people live in poverty, with little employment opportunity. 60% of Afghans are under age 20, and have only known life with war. The more stable areas see some economic progress, even though the country still suffers from a degree of conflict. Pray that the Afghan people might experience genuine freedom and a better quality of life.
There are many social and health needs in Afghanistan:
- Health risks. Afghanistan is the world's most dangerous place for a child to be born. Infant mortality rate is among the world's highest. Many causes of death are preventable (diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery and pneumonia), but lack of health care and clean water (78% do not have regular access to clean water) causes many deaths. Refusal to allow women to receive medical care from men causes high maternal mortality rates.
- The disabled. There are an estimated one million people suffering with disabilities, mostly with damaged or destroyed limbs as a result of war. In remote areas, many are still being injured by landmines. This is one of the world's highest proportions of disabled people, in a nation with little provision for their care or rehabilitation.
- Poppy cultivation has long been the main internal source of income, peaking at one-third of the GDP (a proportion now greatly reduced due to the massive influx of aid). This lucrative harvest heavily financed the Taliban. Failure to find a sustainable alternative crop drives impoverished farmers to continue, despite its prohibition in Islam. Pray for the success and feasibility of alternative agricultural projects.
Development issues for prayer:
- Human development is equally vital. The infant mortality rate, although very high, is dropping rapidly as health services improve. A record number of children are enrolled in school. Micro-enterprise initiatives are giving many opportunities to start small businesses, earn a respectable living and provide for others.
- Christian involvement in aid and development. Since 1966, a number of Christian relief and development agencies have ministered to the blind, maimed, sick, deprived, illiterate and needy, in the name and Spirit of the Lord Jesus. Many Christians - most of them in humanitarian capacities - work to serve the people of Afghanistan. Practical demonstrations of Christian care and love impress many Afghans, breaking down prejudices and preparing hearts for the gospel. In addition to the tragedies of lives lost, enforced reductions of personnel and even withdrawal of entire organizations from the country caused a great loss of many effective workers. Pray for both courage in the face of adversity and wisdom to know how best to demonstrate Christ's love to the Afghan people.
Afghanistan is one of the least reached countries in the world. There are 48,000 mosques but not a single church building. Pray for the 70 unreached peoples of this land, especially for the following groups:
- Pashtuns. They number over 40% of the Afghan population and are politically dominant. Pashtun on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border comprise what has been called the largest Muslim tribal society in the world - as many as 46 million people in over 30 major sub-tribes. Christians among them remain few, though urban, educated Pashtuns in exile have shown some response. Pray that multitudes might be released from fear, prejudice, the strongholds of Islam and pride in pashtunwali (their tribal code of honour); there is evidence of an intense spiritual battle for breakthrough among this people.
- Tajiks in the northeast. Speaking Dari (a form of Persian), they are closely related to the Pashtuns. Some Tajik groups were among the last people to resist the Taliban, yet they remain over 99% Muslim. Pray for their spiritual freedom.
- Hazaras, Shi'a Muslims of Mongol descent. Being a Shi'a group, they have been severely persecuted through the years and were even massacred by the Sunni Taliban. They have demonstrated greater openness to the gospel in recent years.
- Uzbeks and Turkmen of the north have shown encouraging responsiveness as refugees in other lands, but as in their namesake countries, only a tiny proportion are believers.
- The six Aimaq tribes of the west, of nomadic background, and the Baloch and Brahui of the south. There are very few if any believers from these isolated groups.
- The nine Nuristani tribal groups in the mountains north and east of Kabul. They speak five languages and 16 dialects; many of these are mutually unintelligible.
- The five Ismaili Muslim Pamir people groups and the Kyrgyz living in the far northeast of Afghanistan, along the high Pamir Mountain range. These people groups are isolated in small valleys, far from good roads. Ismaili Muslims tend to be more open to the good news, and a small community of believers was birthed some years ago. Praise God for good distribution of gospel audio materials among the Kyrgyz.
- The numerous Dardic people groups near the volatile border region with Pakistan. The largest of these is the Pashai, numbering in the hundreds of thousands of people.
- The nomadic Gujar and Jugi/Kuchi/Ghorbat people groups.
Afghan believers. Their numbers are increasing, as are the resources available to help disciple them. There are probably several thousand indigenous Christians; no exact number is known. They can never meet publicly, and even their secret meetings must change times and locations to avoid detection. In rural areas, they often believe as family groups, even as extended families. Also multiplying are small groups of Afghan believers in South Asia, Europe and North America. Pray for the protection of these precious believers, and for the clarity and consistency of their witness.
The need for the Scriptures. After decades of work, the whole Dari Bible is finally available (UBS); around 70% can understand this language. The NT in Pashto is available - albeit in a Pakistani and not an Afghan dialect and therefore not entirely understood. Work on an Afghan Pashto NT is underway. A full Bible translation does not exist in any indigenous minority language; pray that these might come to fruition. Praise God for translation progress in Hazaragi (Gospel of Luke), Kyrgyz (audio NT), Southern Uzbek (Genesis, Exodus and Matthew, with the full NT by 2012) and eight other languages either ongoing or beginning translation work. Pray also for the entry and distribution of God's Word into this closed land; the government, the Taliban and even NATO forces and NGO groups oppose it.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.