| · Population : Estimates are from 100,000 to 300,000
The most inaccessible of Afghan provinces, Nuristan forms the backbone of the Hindu Kush mountain range in north-east Afghanistan. 5,500m snow-capped mountain peaks are linked by deep valleys where stone, mud and wood houses compete for space on the mountain slopes. Nuristan (formerly Kafirstan) was the the setting of the book and film “The Man Who Would Be King.”
The difficulty with accessing the area and the long-time enmity with the neighbouring Pashtun tribes has continued the isolation of the Nuristani peoples and to date it remains almost completely undeveloped. There is no health care, very few functional schools and in many parts no vehicular access. Many villages are completely snowed in during the winter months.
Call for Help Unanswered
In 1865, two new Pashtun believers risked their lives to go up to this area to take the gospel of peace to the Nuristanis, who at the time represented a lone island of animism in the seemingly unbroken sea of Central Asian Islam. Their message was greeted with enthusiasm and the Nuristanis extended a further invitation to teachers of the good news to return and share more. Tragically, no one managed to return. 30 years later, possibly using information given by the British, the Amir of Kabul invaded Nuristan, converting the people to Islam at the point of a sword. The “land of the “kafirs” (unbelievers), as it was known, was renamed the “land of heavenly light”.
In 2007, the area is still in dire need. Food production is insufficient, life-expectancy is low and the maternal mortality rate is amongst the highest in the world. Eastern Nuristan, a hiding place for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, is subject to frequent attacks, both on locals and on foreigners seeking to work there. Other areas are divided by distrust, blood-feuding, unforgiveness, banditry and the fear of spirits. Seemingly, the god of war extensively worshipped in pre-Islamic times, still has great sway over the valleys. Nevertheless, these people were never forgotten by our God of love who has undoubtedly planned great things for the Nuristanis (Isaiah 9:2). He who has promised is faithful!
New Vision for Nuristan
For more than 20 years, a desire to reach out to Nuristan has been growing. There is a vision to see whole feuding communities transformed by the power of God’s message of grace, love and forgiveness. Practical development projects are in great need. Problems of accessibility have frequently impeded attempts of outsiders to visit the area but there is a sense that God’s time is coming for the Nuristanis. The challenge is great, but our God is much greater.
Please pray for:
* Access for workers; the gospel of forgiveness to come and radically impact feuding communities
* Contacts with people of peace and honor who can open doors for the Good News (Mt. 10:11)
* More workers, especially medical personnel, willing to serve in a tough place
* Dreams and visions of Jesus to prepare the Nuristanis for his message
* Understanding, wisdom and protection for workers as they plan to take hope to the mountains
* Names of the major tribes among the Nuristani :
Vasi, Kata, SaNu, Ashku, GramsaNa, Tregami, Kalasha, Dungullo, Kom, Kshto-Dungulio, Mumo (One could site each tribe in prayer before the Lord).