RFI Executive Vice President Discusses Afghanistan Crisis, Plight of Persecuted Christians

September 3, 2021

RFI Executive Vice President Eric Patterson this week discussed the crisis unfolding in Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal, with an emphasis on the plight of Christians who are now subject to Taliban rule. 

In an interview with EWTN News Nightly, Patterson reflects on lessons we might draw from the Iran hostage crisis that began in November 1979 and persisted until January 1981. He described the administration’s approach to the current Afghanistan crisis as driven not by concerns “about destabilizing central Asia or commitments we should be making to our allies,” but fear of “having another Carter-type presidency with hundreds or thousands of Americans held as hostages on the ground.” 

Of the August 31 withdrawal deadline, Patterson said: “This was an artificial deadline. We gave all the power to the Taliban by insisting we’re going to follow it… And we should have been more decisive in calling to extend this until everyone is out.”

He also touched on the plight of persecuted Christians on the ground in Afghanistan — a number estimated to be anywhere from 10,000 to 18,000, almost all of whom converted to Christianity:

There have been some brave Afghans… who have made it clear they’re Christians [and] have a public witness. And so those are the ones we’re most concerned would be targeted. 

Some will choose to stay and live out their witness there. Others are called to leave the country. We want to be sure that they are protected on the ground if at all possible, and that if they want to leave they’re allowed to leave. 

And so it’s incumbent on the U.S. and Western governments to do everything that they can to speed up special visa processes for these people to be able to leave Afghanistan. 

When we say no one should be left behind in Afghanistan, we mean our allies, our partners, our own citizens, as well as those who are under this dire threat of religious persecution. 

Patterson addressed similar concerns in an interview on the Drew Mariani Show, saying that even before the U.S. pullout, Afghanistan continued to be the second worst religious freedom violator in the world when it comes to Christians. Only North Korea could be viewed as surpassing it.

He continued:

In Afghanistan right now there are Christian martyrs every single day… And they will be not just killed, but in many cases tortured, beheaded, their families will lose everything because of their faith in Jesus Christ. We need to be actively praying for them, as well as supporting governments and groups that are putting pressure on the Taliban.

The good news, Patterson said, is that “the universal church is praying. The good news is that friends of Afghanistan, and friends of Afghans, are working very quietly in a variety of ways to either get people out by airlift or by land.”

More RFI commentary on the crisis in Afghanistan: