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No church buildings left in Afghanistan

 

WASHINGTON (BP) — Not one Christian church building is left standing in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department. The last such public place of Christian worship was destroyed by its landowner in March 2010.

The U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report, which revealed the destruction of the final Afghan church building, said there was a decrease in religious freedom during the reporting period, which covered July to December of 2010. The decline was a result of the Afghanistan government’s failure to acknowledge mistreatment of Christians and other religious minorities, according to the September report.

“The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom,” the report said.

Afghanistan’s constitution conveys a contradiction that has resulted in the restriction of religious freedom, according to the report. The document states Islam is the “religion of the state” but also declares that “followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of the law.”

Population estimates for Afghanistan range from 24 to 33 million. It is projected that 80 percent are Sunni Muslim, 19 percent are Shia Muslim and less than 1 percent practice another form of religion. The Christian community is estimated to consist of 500 to 8,000 members.

Though there are no explicit restrictions on religious minority groups establishing places of worship, there are “very few” such public worship centers, according to the report.

Afghanistan’s lack of Christian churches was first reported by CNSNews.com.

Holly Naylor is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.