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Jason Asenso
By Jason Asenso August 19, 2021

There’s no evidence that 229 Christian missionaries face death sentence in Afghanistan

If Your Time is short

  • Variations of this Facebook post have circulated since 2009. It is false.

In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, a Facebook post lamenting the impending execution of 229 Christian missionaries has begun recirculating online. It is not true.

The post reads:

"Please pray for the 229 Christian missionaries, who have been sentenced to death tomorrow afternoon by the Afghan Islamists. Please join us in urgent prayer, also because the radical Islamic group has just taken Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq. There are hundreds of Christian men, women and children who are being beheaded. Prayer cover is being requested. Please take a minute and pray for them. Pass the message on."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Variations of the post have been shared through email and on social media since 2009. According to Lead Stories, some variations say 22 missionaries face execution, while others attribute the prayer request to Pope Francis.

The post offers no evidence for its claim, and we found no news outlets or international organizations that have acknowledged these supposed executions.

This post comes as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan following the final stages of U.S. troop withdrawal. The Taliban previously controlled Afghanistan from 1996 until the U.S. invaded the country following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The treatment of religious minorities in Afghanistan is cause for concern since the Taliban has a history of persecuting Christians and other religious groups. But there is no evidence that the Taliban or "Afghan Islamists" will soon execute missionaries. Estimates of the Christian population in Afghanistan are between 2,000 and 3,000, according to a 2013 U.S. International Religious Freedom Report.

The post also jumps from Afghanistan to outdated news about Qaraqosh, a city in Iraq where Christians previously faced persecution.

In 2014 Christians fled Qaraqosh, known as Iraq’s Christian capital, after the Islamic State, the militant group known as ISIS, began to take over the city. At the time, Pope Francis called on the international community to address the crisis, according to the BBC.

The Islamic State was ousted from Qaraqosh in 2016, and since then, about half the city’s population has returned and started to rebuild.

On a visit to Qaraqosh this year, Pope Francis encouraged residents to continue rebuilding. "The road to a full recovery may still be long, but I ask you, please, not to grow discouraged," he said.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed that 229 Christian missionaries were sentenced to death by Afghan Islamists.

Variations of this claim have circulated since 2009, and there is no evidence that "Afghan Islamists" or the Taliban will soon execute Christian missionaries.

We rate this claim False.

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More by Jason Asenso

There’s no evidence that 229 Christian missionaries face death sentence in Afghanistan

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