34,940,837 (Jul 2018)
Modern day Afghanistan came into being in 1747, when the local Pashtun tribes united to fight for independence from the Persian Empire. The 19th and 20th centuries saw Afghanistan under British rule, and they lost much of their Eastern lands to British India (modern day Pakistan) during the colonial era. Afghanistan fought numerous wars against the British during this time, resulting in the signing of the Rawalpindi Agreement in 1919, following the Third Anglo-Afghan War, and which recognized the independence of Afghanistan as a nation.
Afghanistan is an ethnically diverse country of many tribes and ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Pashtuns and the Tajiks. The capital city is Kabul, and the two official languages are Pashto and Dari Persian.
Afghan governments have a history of instability, mass unpopularity and reliance on foreign intervention and support. Since the late 1970s, Afghanistan has experienced a continuous state of war, including major occupations in the forms of the 1979 Soviet invasion, a Pakistani military intervention in support of the Taliban in the late 1990s and the October 2001 US-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government. Between 2011 and 2014 US and other forces began to withdraw from the country, leaving Afghan military largely responsible for security with assistance from limited numbers of NATO and US troops in advisory roles. Since 2001 Afghanistan has had two elected presidents, Hamid Karzai (elected 2001 and 2004) and Ashraf Ghani (elected 2014).
The Afghan economy currently faces numerous problems and an urgent need to rebuild and develop, with a quarter of the population living below the poverty line and a 24% unemployment rate. Agriculture of various fruits, such as pomegranates and grapes, has been revived in recent years, but is routinely disrupted by the continued violence. Afghanistan is also heavily reliant on foreign financial aid, as well as growing poppies for the illicit drug trade, although steps have been taken to decrease the latter in recent years.
Afghanistan’s population is an estimated 34.9 million, with almost 4 million refugees living in Pakistan and Iran (not including the undocumented refugees). The country has one of the world’s lowest average life expectancy of 52 years. Crime and a seemingly perpetual state of warfare result in a turbulent and unpredictable way of life for many Afghans.
According to the Human Development Index, Afghanistan is the second least developed nation in the world. It has the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the world and 45% of the population lacks access to clean water. UNICEF estimates that 3.7 million children, nearly half of the population, lack access to education. The national literacy rate is 38%, although just 24% for females. There is a great lack of qualified teachers.
Afghanistan is 118th in global press freedom rankings. Since the fall of the Taliban, freedom of expression has been encouraged, and restrictions on TV and radio broadcasting, enforced by the Taliban, have been lifted. It is, nevertheless, still forbidden to defame individuals or criticize Islam in the press.
Following the Taliban takeover in 1996, Islam has been the state religion. Religion is considered a unifying force by many Afghans, transcending ethnic and regional divisions among the people. After the Taliban came to power, the country’s name was changed from the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Conversion from Islam is illegal, as is proselytizing. Specific figures for the Christian population in Afghanistan do not exist, because most Christians practice in private or secret to avoid persecution and social pressure. The Christian population represents less than 1% of all religious backgrounds and is estimated to be around 30,000, according to the Pew Research Center.
In April 2011, Shoaib Assadullah, detained for giving a Bible to a man in the town of Mazar-e-Sharif who later turned him in to the authorities, was released after being jailed for five months.
Similar cases include that of Said Musa, a doctor and father of six children. He has been imprisoned by the authorities since May 2010. Despite the arrival of various neighbors and friends to defend him in a court case, no court case has been permitted, and he remains imprisoned.
- Pray for a unified Afghan effort towards rebuilding their country.
- Pray for increased tolerance towards the practice of Christianity within Afghanistan, so that its Christians may worship openly and freely.
- Pray for the lives of all those who have experienced injustice at the hands of oppressors persecuting them for their religion, and that they may use their experiences to help improve those of others.
- Pray for an end to the turmoil and violence in the country between NATO and the Al-Qaeda-Taliban rebels.
 CIA World Factbook
 CIA World Factbook
 Reporters Without Borders 2009
 Pew Research Center
 Open Doors