On the World Watch List 2023, Afghanistan came in as the 9th most dangerous place to be a Christian – down from the top spot in the previous year. For many, this is a surprise, given that the situation in Afghanistan, following the takeover by the Taliban in 2021, does not seem to have improved. To help you understand, we’ve put together a summary of how Afghanistan’s score has been collated.
How is the World Watch List scored?
Each country’s score is determined by measuring the intensity of persecution across two categories: violence and pressure. Pressure is measured in five spheres of life: church, national, community, family, and private.
Each of these six types of persecution receive equal weighting and are added together to give a total score out of 100 (rounded to the nearest whole number after ranking).
You can read more about each of these measures here.
Why did Afghanistan’s score and ranking both go down in 2023?
The first thing to note is that Afghanistan’s score still falls in the ‘Extreme’ level of persecution. While the score (and therefore rank) has gone down, life is still incredibly difficult for the small number of believers who live in the country.
To score pressure, it is measured in each of the five spheres across each category of Christian community present in the country. Because so many expatriate Christians have returned to Afghanistan in this reporting period, they must be considered as a separate scoring category in addition to the convert category. Expatriates working for NGOs etc. experience less severe difficulties in the five spheres of life compared to Afghan converts from Islam to Christianity. Therefore, the overall score decreased.
The violence score for Afghanistan has dropped from 15.0 in 2022, to 4.6 in 2023. The score for violence reflects actual instances of Christians being attacked and killed. The possible threat of attack has already been taken under consideration under the pressure scoring.
The danger under the Taliban is extreme – especially for converts – but with the church deeper underground than in the previous WWL reporting periods, they have been less visible for attack. Where Christians experienced violence, it was normally the same as for other Afghans who had worked with the former government and armed forces and was not a faith-related issue. When the church is deeper underground, incidents may, of course, occur which are not reported.
Does this mean that life is now better for Christians in Afghanistan?
Very little has changed for converts to Christianity in the last year. The reduction in the score for violence in no way means it is safe (or even just safer) for converts to live in Afghanistan. They still live under the terrible threat of severe hostility if their Christian faith is discovered, for instance, by family or friends.
Open Doors concentrates on the persecution of Christians and not purely on the political and economic difficulties of life under the Taliban. The Word Watch List shows how Christians suffer for faith-related reasons. Under the Taliban, all Afghan citizens are suffering, especially women and girls, who have been losing much of their already limited freedom.
In the reporting period, the Taliban were investing time and effort in consolidating their power. Since the attitude of Taliban authorities is reportedly that there are anyway no known or registered Christians in Afghanistan, they have not seen the need to search for them. Therefore, as long as they kept a very low profile, most Christians escaped the severest of consequences for living their faith.