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Giovanna’s blog on ‘Christian ministry in Afghanistan’ – Part 7

Hi there, Giovanna here (not my real name, for security reasons…)

Here is part 7 of my blog ‘A personal reflection on ‘serving in Afghanistan” – if you missed the earlier parts, here they are:

I said last time that a Muslim man is allowed to have up to 4 wives. I knew a rich man who had 4 wives each in a different city in Afghanistan …wise! They all had their own households and got on well when they met. However most Muslim men do not have 4 wives! They couldn’t afford it! Nor do some want to. And others wouldn’t dare! The most common reason for having more than one wife is that the first wife cannot produce a child (or a son). This is tragic for the first wife who is often rejected and reduced to the status of a servant. Even I have seen some second wives gloat when she produces the much longed for baby that the first wife couldn’t. The first wives can feel devastated and humiliated. Reminds me of 1 Samuel 1 and how Peninnah treated Hannah. “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.

This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.” Tragic! Sometimes the husbands care and sometimes they don’t.

I remember here in the UK a Muslim lady who was desperate for a child overhearing the story from Luke’s Gospel of Elizabeth conceiving in her old age and sharing how encouraged she was that God cared about her. In cultures where being married and bearing children is a woman’s role and gives her status, there is huge stigma if they do not achieve these 2 goals.

Zainab

Zainab (not her real name) who was Pakistani and Pushtun, so very like an Afghan culturally (though she spoke both Pushtu and Urdu, or rather a mixture of both!), ended up marrying a man who already had a wife. The first wife had become old and very worn out. Indeed when I met her the word “haggard” was certainly applicable as she was dressed in ragged black clothes and her teeth were broken. Her husband decided to marry Zainab not because he could afford to or didn’t already have children and even sons but I guess because he just wanted to. To say the first wife became bitter is an understatement. She cut up Zainab’s clothes and even her shoes. I tried to get Zainab to put herself in the first wife’s shoes but she just didn’t care. She regarded herself as the new wife who was younger and prettier and that the first wife should just accept it. I guess Zainab had had a hard life herself and so her own good fortune and new security was more important to her. I guess also that when you believe in fate you see what happens in your life from a certain viewpoint.

One Easter Zainab and her son (at that time he was about 12) attended a showing of the Jesus film. I had invited her and she was very happy to see it. The film showing was in the open air in Pakistan on the Church of Pakistan grounds and on a big screen.

Remember she had no TV and though had seen TV wasn’t familiar with it. She and her son sat, along with many others, mesmerised as the film unfolded. When Jesus multiplied the bread and fishes, she gasped audibly as did others. In another part (I forget which) she asked me if it came from behind the screen …she didn’t understand how a screen worked! The impact of the film on the audience was considerable (as it was when shown on other days).

Afterwards there was an appeal for people who wanted to accept Jesus as Saviour and she went forward for prayer. She agreed to attend a Bible Study group and she did. I talked to her about them and even attended one with her but it was hard to tell what she understood. Whether she was going to learn about Jesus or for the company and tea and cakes I still couldn’t say. She wasn’t at all educated and couldn’t read so listened as the stories were read/told. She wasn’t particularly a practicing Muslim but it seemed to become a kind of syncretism in her mind. This is common with poor uneducated people but she was a simple lady (I originally wrote “honest” but not completely sure on that!) and only God knows her heart and what went on in her mind. You don’t have to be literate and clever to follow Jesus. You only have to grasp that God loves you and died for you.

I’ll continue her story at some point in the future but next time I will share re how some male Afghans watched the Jesus film and the impact it had on them!

All for now. Speak to you again soon.

Giovanna

p.s. Would you like to find out more about Christian mission in Afghanistan?

I said last time that I would share about the Pushtun people.

You can find a lot more information on the internet but in summary:

  • Pushtuns are also called Pashtuns and for some reason Pathans by the Brits!!
  • The total number of Pashtuns in the world is estimated to be around 63 million, however, this figure is disputed because of the lack of an official census in Afghanistan since 1979
  • Pashtuns are native to Afghanistan (mostly east and south but also elsewhere) and northwestern Pakistan
  • The Pushtun area was divided between Afghanistan and what was then India (but became Pakistan) historically by the Brits but previously it was all in Afghanistan
  • Significant communities of Pushtuns also live in India. A recent diaspora has formed in the UAE and you will also find sizeable communities in the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany and other countries. Away from their communities some have become Christians.
  • Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, at around 48% of the country’s total population. They have been the dominant ethnolinguistic group in Afghanistan since the nation’s founding. Additionally, Pashtuns are the second­ largest ethnic group in Pakistan forming 15% to 18% of the country’s total population, and are considered one of the five major ethnolinguistic groups of the nation.
  • Educated Pushtuns in Afghanistan will also speak Dari. Those in Pakistan will also speak Urdu. Even some educated Pushtuns in Afghanistan cannot read Pushtu preferring Dari.
  • Q12eration World reports that “the number of Afghan believers are increasing, as are the resources available to help disciple them. There are probably several thousand indigenous Christians; no exact number is known. They can never meet publicly, and even their secret meetings must change times and locations to avoid detection.”
  • No one knows how many Afghan believers there are. Numbers are quoted between 1,500 and 15,000. I would err on the lower side but maybe there are more. How many are Pushtuns is unknown. They are still considered unreached as a people.
  • Most expats in Afghanistan work with Dari speakers so pray God will raise up more people with a vision for the Pushtuns
  • Scriptures are available in Pushtu and now they are online it is easier to access and read for those with access to the internet. Many of course can’t read. One of my Afghan friends discipled a group of illiterate women using the Jesus film.

Source: GIS re12orts online

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