Not a Single Christian Church Left in Afghanistan, Says State Department [Excerpts]
This reflects the state of religious freedom in that country ten years after the United States first invaded it and overthrew its Islamist Taliban regime.
In the intervening decade, U.S. taxpayers have spent $440 billion to support Afghanistan's new government and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel have died serving in that country.
The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010, according to the State Department's latest International Religious Freedom Report. The report, which was released last month and covers the period of July 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, also states that “there were no Christian schools in the country.”
Most Christians in the country refuse to “state their beliefs or gather openly to worship,” said the State Department.
The report acknowledged that Afghanistan’s post-Taliban constitution, which was ratified with the help of U.S. mediation in 2004, can be contradictory when it comes to the free exercise of religion.
While the new constitution states that Islam is the “religion of the state” and that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam,” it also proclaims that “followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law.”
However, “the right to change one’s religion was not respected either in law or in practice,” according to the State Department.
“Muslims who converted away from Islam risked losing their marriages, rejection from their families and villages, and loss of jobs,” according to the report. “Legal aid for imprisoned converts away from Islam remains difficult due to the personal objection of Afghan lawyers to defend apostates.”