FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims 22 Christian Missionaries Were Sentenced To Death In Afghanistan

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook more than 300 times claims 22 Christian missionaries were sentenced to death in Afghanistan.

“Your prayers please,” reads the caption.

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller didn’t find any recent media reports of Christian missionaries being sentenced to death or executed in Afghanistan. The claim has been routinely debunked over the years as a hoax.

Fact Check:

The Facebook post, which features a screen grab of a text message, asks people for prayers and urges them to pass the message along to others. It has been shared more than 300 times. (RELATED: Do The Taliban Control Nearly 45 Percent Of Afghanistan?)

“Please pray for the 22 Christian Missionaries who have been sentenced to death tomorrow afternoon by the Islamic in Afghanistan,” reads the message. “Can you please pass this news quickly so a lot of people can pray for them.”

The State Department estimates that Christian and other non-Islamic religious groups make up less than one percent of Afghanistan’s population. The country’s constitution, which establishes Islam as the state religion, grants minority religious groups freedom to exercise their faiths “within the limits of the law,” but makes proselytizing and apostasy punishable by death, according to the State Department.

The Daily Caller didn’t find any recent media reports of 22 Christian missionaries being sentenced to death or executed in Afghanistan, only other fact-checkers debunking the claim as a hoax. According to Snopes, the hoax has been circulating since at least 2009, spreading via text message, email and social media.

One widely-shared version includes an image purportedly showing the execution of a Christian missionary in Afghanistan. However, Agence France-Presse (AFP) determined that the photo likely depicts a member of the Islamic State executing a man accused of spying in Iraq.

While the Facebook post’s claim has been routinely debunked as a hoax, there have been cases of the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups killing people accused of being Christian missionaries in Afghanistan. (RELATED: Is The US Spending $50 Billion A Year In Afghanistan?)

In 2010, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing 10 medical aid workers from the International Assistance Mission, claiming the individuals were Christian missionaries and spies, according to The New York Times. In 2014, the Taliban killed a South African family in Kabul for allegedly operating a secret Christian missionary group, though friends of the family told reporters said they were not proselytizing, according to The Guardian.

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) has also targeted Christian and other minority religious groups in Afghanistan, according to the State Department.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter

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