Impact Afghanistan | 03 May 2023

A surprising way to help Afghan Christians and refugees


Show: true / Country: Afghanistan / Afghanistan
When hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled their country when the Taliban swept to power in August 2021, they often landed in places where their lives aren’t easy. Yes, they had escaped the brutality of the Taliban—but in many countries, they can’t legally work or attend school and struggle to make ends meet. For Afghan Christians, many countries surrounding Afghanistan (No. 9 on the 2023 World Watch List) are also extremely difficult places in which to follow Jesus—so the lives of Afghan believers are hard even after the Taliban.

One Open Doors partner in Central Asia saw how hard life is for Afghan refugees in his country, and decided to do something about it. 

Afghan youth tend to love playing soccer. So Brother Ishmael* decided to start a soccer club, just for them. 

“We could see there was an opportunity to reach out to the Afghan refugees and support them,” Brother Ishmael says. “The situation for them is very difficult. In our region, governments do not officially recognize the presence of such a large number of refugees and don’t provide the necessary social support to them.” 

So, five times a week around 40 girls and 100 boys meet on the AstroTurf field to burn off energy, laugh together and find strength in relationships with one another. The happiness can clearly be seen in their faces.

“The shocking reality is that three out of every 10 of these refugee children say they want to end their lives because they spend most of their time indoors out of fear,” said Brother Ishmael. By pulling on a Messi or Neymar jersey or even simply wearing the colors of Afghanistan’s soccer kit, their time together allows them to feel normal, at least for a little bit.

But the soccer club is not only about sport. The project has been a source of hope in so many ways. There have been opportunities to run weekly Bible study groups and hold house church for those who want to go, things that are normally quite difficult to do among the Afghan community. By engaging the refugee children, Open Doors partners have been able to build trust with their parents and in so doing provide practical help. 

“We help with food packages,” Ishmael shares. “These food packages help a lot of refugees survive. In addition, we distribute the necessary clothes, blankets and hygiene items. We also provide assistance for some cases with medical needs.” Help is being extended to Christians who have converted from Islam but also to Muslim refugees who are now able to hear the gospel. Many have given their lives to Jesus and want to be baptized.

Thousands of refugees are in limbo in Central Asia. They do not have enough money to move on and because of the haste in which they left Afghanistan many of them do not have their legal papers. 

The practical vision is for a football club for all who want to come—but the spiritual goal is that they will see and feel the love of Christ.

*Name changed for security reasons

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