Lying close to the Iranian border, Herat is the most westerly city in Afghanistan and forms the strategic gateway into the country from the west and north. Cyrus of the Bible, Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan passed through as invaders en-route to India. Herat was later one of the scenes where the British and the Russians waged war during the 19th century. In 1885, Captain Arthur Conolly, a Christian who was later beheaded in Bukhara, described the region as the granary of Central Asia, able to provision large armies. Herat still lies in a fertile, irrigated valley producing fruit, vegetables, wheat and cotton.
Lawlessness abounds in Herat, Afghanistan
Herat is an ancient city. It was a cultural centre for learning and the arts and flourished before London existed. A 15th century mosque in the centre of the city was once described as the most beautiful example of colour in architecture ever devised and was considered as one of the great wonders of the age. Today this medieval mosque is scarred with rocket shells and bullets, and attempts are being made to restore the remaining 5 giant minarets.
Herat’s strategic border location in western Afghanistan plays a key role in drugs and guns trafficking. Afghanistan is a major drug trafficking country and is the world’s largest exporter of hashish, and the second major supplier of opium and heroin. Afghanistan has more guns per capita of population than any other country in the world. Despite a strict justice system (amputations for theft, etc) lawlessness abounds, particularly in tribal areas where extortion, kidnapping and murder are common. According to the UN, there are 86 minefields around Herat.
Christian History of Herat, Afghanistan
Herat has a distant Christian history. The church there was once significant enough to be represented by the Bishop of Herat at the Council of Nicea (which gave the creed of that name). The church at Herat was annihilated in 1219 AD by Ghengis Khan when he massacred the entire population of one million people. Only a place name remains to testify to that past, a local government district called ‘Enjil’, the Arabic form of the Greek ‘evangel’ (gospel) by which the New Testament is known to Muslims. What a poignantly prophetic and challenging name in a place where the Gospel has not been preached in public for 800 years!
Pray for the Muslims in Afghanistan:
* Pray that the city of Herat will once again return to its Christian heritage.
* Pray for the political and religious leaders of this strategic city (Psalm 10:17 & 18).
* Ask God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to bring many to salvation through Christ Jesus.
* Pray for those involved in the drug and arms trafficking that they will come to realise their need of salvation (Psalm 7:9).