Afghanistan (MNN) — At least 18 aid workers – including an American woman – have been detained in Afghanistan. United States officials confirmed the detainment this weekend but provided no other details.

International Assistance Mission is working with the United Nations to locate its staff and secure their release. Taliban authorities reportedly arrested the workers and brought them to Kabul last week, then closed the IAM office in Ghor province.

On Saturday, a Taliban spokesman told reporters that the staff was “inviting people to join Christianity,” but IAM says it does not know the charges filed against its team.

An IAM employee in Ghor tells CBS News:

“They arrested my coworkers whose names were with them and told the rest of us to go home. They might come back for us, too. We are in a state of shock. We are accused of something I never imagined. We are waiting to see what happens next and when they arrest us.”

Shahnaz Ebrahimi, a Heart4Iran partner who was born in Afghanistan, says Taliban governance allows no room for the Gospel. “Since two years ago, [when the] Taliban [took] over the country, life [is] miserable for all the people, especially for believers,” Ebrahimi says.

Shahnaz and her husband, Hossein Ebrahimi of Ariana Ministry, are actively ministering to fellow Afghan believers around the globe.

In its latest report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) describes Afghanistan’s failing religious freedom conditions. For example, the Taliban announced no Christians in Afghanistan soon after its 2021 takeover.

The Lord had other plans. Soon after the Taliban’s resurgence, “The Lord spoke to my heart, ‘I will give you a new harvest.’ [Today,] I can see the new harvest, more than before,” Ebrahimi says.

“Even [though] the Taliban came and [put in] these rules, people are accepting Jesus Christ more than before.”

Pray for Heart4Iran and its partners as they ensure Gospel access in Afghanistan through digital media.

“One reason we [started an online] church was because the believers [were] left behind and they were thirsty. They want to know more about the Lord, but nobody was there to teach them. Most believers came out of the country [in 2021,]” Ebrahimi says.

Find more ways to help secret Christians in Afghanistan here.


Header image is a representative stock photo from Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of Mohammad Husaini/Unsplash)