Ben’s Story

Escaping an honor killing

For a young Afghan Christian named Ben*, 2014 will forever be one of the most life-changing and challenging years of his life. But today, because of God’s work through the faithful partners of Shai Fund, he has a hope and a future.

In 2014, as he explored evangelical Christian websites, Ben came to faith in Jesus. However, when he joyfully shared with his family the good news he had converted, he faced immediate persecution. They beat him, fully intending to kill him. And this happened more than once.

According to Islamic law, converting to another religious belief is a direct dishonor to your family and your community. So Ben’s decision to turn to Christianity was a matter of family disgrace, and killing him would be considered an “honor killing.”

On one occasion, Ben was beaten so badly that he fell unconscious to the floor. He awoke in the hospital, not even sure how he got there, but trusting this was the sovereignty of God keeping him alive. However, even though he had survived, Ben knew that he could not return to his family. It had become a matter of life and death.

Ben needed to act quickly, so he did not wait for discharge from the hospital but crawled out of his bed and fled in secret. And, despite his injuries and no means of transportation, Ben made his way to Kabul, the nation’s capital, with the intent of finding safety and finishing his high school studies.  

With the help of a husband and wife who discipled him through the Internet, Ben learned of a house church that had been started in 2002 by South African Pastor Werner Groenewald and his wife, Hannelie. Through this, Ben finally found the support and nurture to grow in his newfound faith. He was able to connect with the Groenewalds’ teenaged son and daughter and other Afghan followers of Jesus.

Then on November 29, 2014, Ben’s world was crushed yet again. Taliban terrorists entered the Groenewald’s guesthouse, murdered Werner, his two children, one of Ben’s friends, and another Afghan. Then a suicide bomber blew up the compound.

Ben survived, but he was devastated. He went underground, staying off the radar, but the trauma followed him. Nonetheless, he began his college studies, while continuing to be discipled in his faith by the husband and wife online. But physically, Ben was all alone.

Another test of his faith and survival took place in 2021, when the U.S. quickly prepared to abandon Afghanistan. This sudden foreign policy shift had a profound impact on all religious minorities living discreetly. Many Afghan Christians had managed to keep their identity a secret, but Ben’s faith was known. And tragically, Ben’s family, loyal to their Islamic faith, exposed their son to the Taliban. He knew he had to get out of the country.

The couple discipling Ben shared his story with Nina Shea, one of the foremost international human rights lawyers in the U.S. and director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. She connected Ben with Shai Fund.

Shai Fund assigned a team to Ben, moving him from the western Afghan city of Herat to a safe house in Mazar-i-Sharif, near the Iranian border. All communication between Shai Fund and Ben was prearranged and encoded to make sure he was interacting with our partners and not a covert member of the Taliban. And when it was time for him to board a plane for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, he had only minutes to get out the door and go.

As a Christian in a Muslim-majority country, now under the rule of a brutal Islamic authority, Ben was a high-profile target. So Shai Fund mapped out every Taliban checkpoint on the way to his flight, and his path to the airport was meticulously choreographed until he was on the airplane to Abu Dhabi, UAE.

For several months, Ben lived in the Emirates Humanitarian City, a converted COVID isolation facility where thousands of other Afghan expatriates also found refuge. But even there, he and other Muslim-background believers did not feel entirely safe.

Shai Fund continued working with Ben to find a home in Canada. He is now living there, meeting with a house church of other Afghan Christians, growing in his faith and pursuing God’s plan for his life. Even now, Ben’s whereabouts and real identity cannot be disclosed for fear of those who would locate him and kill him for his faith.

Ben will never forget 2014, a dramatic year in which he found a new beginning in Christ, but also faced deadly danger. Thankfully, today he at last able to envision a new life, with a God-given future and a hope.

*Ben’s real name is being withheld for his protection.

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