FACT CHECK: Did The Taliban Sentence 229 Christian Missionaries To Death?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims 229 Christian missionaries were recently sentenced to death by “Afghan Islamists.”

Facebook/Screenshot

Facebook/Screenshot

Verdict: False

There is no evidence the Taliban recently sentenced 229 Christian missionaries to death. The post appears to be an iteration of a hoax that circulated over the years.

Fact Check:

The message about 229 Christian missionaries being allegedly sentenced to death “tomorrow afternoon” by “Afghan Islamists” has been circulating online amid the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.

The Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15 after having previously seized major cities across Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press. The U.S. and other countries have since been rushing to evacuate their citizens, Afghan allies and others from the country via Kabul’s airport, Reuters reported.

“Please pray for the 229 Christian missionaries, who have been sentenced to death tomorrow afternoon by the Afghan Islamists,” the viral message reads in part. It goes on to state that the “radical Islamic group has just taken Quaragosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq” where “there are hundreds of Christian men, women, and children who are being beheaded.”

The Taliban has historically persecuted religious minority groups. Groups such as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and individuals such as Kelsey Zorzi, the president of the U.N.’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, have also expressed concerns about the safety of members of religious minority groups in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover.

There is, however, no indication the Taliban recently sentenced 229 Christian missionaries to death as the Facebook post claims. (RELATED: Is The US Spending $50 Billion A Year In Afghanistan?)

The viral message mentions Qaraqosh, a Christian town in Iraq – not Afghanistan – that was retaken from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2016, according to Reuters. Pope Francis visited the town in March 2021, BBC News reported.

It appears that the post’s claim is an iteration of a hoax that has spread and been debunked over the years. In 2019, Check Your Fact rated false a similar claim that 22 Christian missionaries had been sentenced to death in Afghanistan. Versions of the hoax have been circulating online in various formats since at least 2009, according to Snopes.

The sentencing to death of 229 Christian missionaries at once by the Taliban or “Afghan Islamists” amid the ongoing Afghanistan crisis would almost certainly have been covered by major media outlets. Check Your Fact didn’t find any such news reports matching the incident described in the Facebook post at the time of publication.

Christians and other non-Muslim religious groups constitute less than 0.3 percent of Afghanistan’s population, the U.S. State Department estimated in its 2020 report on international religious freedom. Under the Afghan government’s laws, conversion from Islam to another religion was “punishable by death, imprisonment, or confiscation of property,” according to the report.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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