Religion: Open Doors] — A diplomatic meeting between the Taliban and Chinese leaders sent a clear message: An authoritarian state is ready to sponsor an emerging one.
The world is watching the unfolding events in Afghanistan. We witnessed the people desperately trying to flee the oppressive regime by clinging on to their planes. The Taliban, like other totalitarians is determined to project a positive image of progress and hope while concealing its disasters and censoring its critics.
China’s Communist Party is able to identify a geopolitical opportunity. The Chinese Communist Party’s leadership seeks to establish warm relations with the Taliban to consolidate its power in volatile regions and gain access to the resources necessary to expand its reach. The Taliban also benefits from China’s authoritarian system and its economic investments.
Their alliance is not only a threat to democracy, but also a human rights crisis which can threaten global religious liberty. China is a well-known violator of human rights, using surveillance technology in order to identify, censor, and punish political and religious dissidents. More than one million Uyghurs are held in Chinese concentration camps, without being charged with any criminal offenses. Religious minorities are particularly at risk, even though any threat to the CCP authority has been suppressed. Regular raids on churches and coercion to conform to ideological requirements are used against them. Members of these churches are forced into a choice between openly practicing their faith or fleeing the country.
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The CCP is known for being an opponent to religious freedom and it is looking for ways to change that perception without compromising its power. The CCP can buy both the press and the power it needs to expand its reach by paying the Taliban who are religiously motivated.
Although the Taliban’s persecution tactics may be more brutal than China’s are the same message: submit, leave, or die. Open Doors USA, which I manage, ranks Afghanistan second in terms of persecuting Christians worldwide, after the Taliban takeover. Imagine if the country’s rights violations could only be trumped by North Korea. This is especially true if they are paired with the sophisticated Chinese model.
People suffer when an authority forces them to follow one ideology. Mass persecution is encouraged by the China-Taliban alliance.
In return for China’s kindness, the Taliban has already stopped supporting Uyghur separatists. It is eager to accept infrastructure investments from China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This will give its benefactor access to vital elements of technology supply chains and a clear path to Iran. These assets allow the Chinese regime to increase its authoritarian power and its reach for human rights violations.
The Afghan people are not strangers to oppression. They need infrastructure, education, and rights protections to be able to create a free and independent country. China and the Taliban may be able to build the infrastructure but neither can the other.
We are getting a glimpse at the human cost of authoritarianism being allowed to spread unimpeded. We cannot ignore the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan as an unintended consequence of a noble-minded mission.
In vulnerable countries, faith practice is often the first freedom to leave. CCP members know this and can smell blood in the water. The U.S. must support a free and stable Afghanistan. This means that we need to be aware of the ways in which authoritarian countries like China seek to exploit this situation. Religious freedom may be the most significant loser in the deal between CCP and Taliban.
David Curry. Courtesy photo
(David Curry is president and CEO of Open Doors USA, which advocates on behalf of those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Follow on Twitter @OpenDoors. For more than 60 years, Open Doors USA has worked in the world’s most oppressive and restrictive countries for Christians. Open Doors assists Christians in persecuted countries and provides them with tools and support. Christians are the most persecuted religion group in the world. They are under attack in at least 60 nations. For more information, visit OpenDoorsUSA.org. )
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