Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghans who converted to Christianity were risking their lives. Families who escaped and a former imam who survived a grenade attack after turning to Christ, have been telling their stories to Release International.
They own only what they were able to carry out of Afghanistan: clothes, a few small personal items and their most treasured possession – their faith in Jesus.
These recent converts to Christianity have already paid the price for their newfound faith – they had to flee their homes in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover last year. They now live together in a single house in a secret location outside their country with many other Christians.
Five families who managed to escape share a building, while in another nearby 35 people from ten families fill every room.
Although some are having to sleep in a large hallway, their joy in the Lord is evident: 'They are lovely Christians with a big faith and a big hope in Christ for a good future,' says 'Habib'*.
Habib is a partner of Release International, a UK-charity supporting persecuted Christians around the world.
'These believers escaped from Afghanistan because they were associated with the Americans,' says Habib, 'They were either working with them or converted by them. The Taliban know them and wanted to kill them – but they managed to escape.'
'Abas' is a former imam, who knows what it is to suffer for Jesus. Abas committed his life to Christ after talking to a Christian leader.
'While studying the Koran I found there was something missing so I started reading the Bible. Not long after, I had a meeting with a pastor and came to faith.'
Abas' conversion had two dramatic effects: it changed him from being an angry militant – and put a target on his back.
'Before I was a Christian, I was very bitter,' he says. 'I disliked everyone and was full of hatred for humanity. I lived like a militant and thought I was the only righteous person on earth.
'But when I met Jesus, I suddenly changed – I experienced grace, and the love of Christ that was on the cross came into my heart. I started to love everybody.'
That love was quickly put to the test. Abas was abandoned by family and friends and lost his business. Then, a year after his conversion, there was an attempt on his life. A grenade was thrown at his house. Then someone tried to kidnap him.
'I lost everything except Jesus Christ,' he says.
'Even to death'
Abas asks: 'Pray for me that I will be steadfast and live as a Christian even to death. My fear has gone and I have a living hope in Jesus, so I am not afraid of persecution or being killed. My eternity is safe.'
Another new Christian, 'Aabroo', was forced out of her homeland long before the Taliban takeover. She became a believer in 2015 and faced immediate rejection from her husband and siblings.
'They asked me to renounce Jesus and said I was an apostate. But I continued in my faith,' she says.
Sometime later Aabroo's husband died. 'I thought my family was finished and my life was over. But the peace of Jesus was marvellous.
'There were many difficulties, especially when I had to take my children and leave our home,' she adds. 'No one gave me anywhere to live for two years and I couldn't get my children admitted to a school.
'It was a hard time but the Holy Spirit was my strength. I was rejoicing in my faith in Jesus – that was my strength.'
Recalling Jesus calming the storm in the gospel of Mark, she adds: 'My life was like being on that boat with the disciples – Jesus was rebuking every storm in my life.
'I feel strength'
'When I read scripture, I feel strength in my soul and body.'
Aabroo is now caring for other families who have come out of Afghanistan. She believes that's why God settled her in her new home – to be there to help Afghan refugees when the time came.
'I want my relatives, neighbours and friends to know Jesus, the Light of the World. Pray for me that more and more will be open to Jesus and receive Him,' she asks. 'My faith is big and I believe my God is big.'
Another member of the group explained that his main desire was not even for safety, but to learn more about Jesus and take the gospel back to Afghanistan.
Since arriving in their new country, what these new Christians long for is 'good spiritual food, proper Christian fellowship and the love of other believers,' says Habib.
'They need our serious prayers to survive in their new Christian faith,' he adds. 'They are entirely dependent on God and His people.'
'Please pray for the Afghan believers,' adds Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International. 'Pray that those who have fled their homeland will be able to find a safe place to live and work.
'Pray too that individuals and families who follow Christ inside Afghanistan will know God's strength, protection and courage as they seek to live out their faith under a hostile regime.
'Finally, let's thank God for believers such as Abas and Aabroo, who are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel.'
Release International has launched an appeal to support Christians around the world forced to flee by persecution. You can find out how to help them here
*Names have been changed to protect identities.