18 August, 2021
60 ‘’ Must - Know’’ Facts About Christianity in Afghanistan
Mullah Baradar.Likely new Afghan president
'' Hussain Andaryas estimates there are 200- 800 Afghan Christians worldwide. He bases that figure on messages sent to his ministry since it began in 1996. Even if some of those messages were not genuine, he said, the number would be more than evened out by Christians living in remote areas without access to computers. However, the Pashtun translation of the bible has a lot of grammatical errors meaning that the number of Pashtuns of Afghanistan who are a Christian would be very, very low, or quite possibly none at all. Convert Case Sparks Surge of Interest in Christianity Among Afghans''
"We are Christians by the one name of the Messiah. As regards our customs our brethren abstain from everything that is contrary to their profession.... Parthian Christians do not take two wives.... Our Bactrian sisters do not practice promiscuity with strangers. Persians do not take their daughters to wife. Medes do not desert their dying relations or bury them alive. Christians in Edessa do not kill their wives or sisters who commit fornication but keep them apart and commit them to the judgment of God. Christians in Hatra do not stone thieves" (quoted in Mark Dickens: The Church of the East Archived 25 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine)
Posted by Ambassador T. Brikins
An unspecified number of reports state that there are 1,000 to 18,000 Afghan Christians practicing their faith secretly in the country. A 2015 study estimates some 3,300 Christians from a Muslim background residing in the country. The U.S. government estimates the total population at 35.7 million (midyear 2019 estimate).
Christians have historically had a small community in Afghanistan.
1. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not recognize any Afghan citizen as being Christian, except many expatriates (although, Rula Ghani, the country's First Lady from 2014 until 2021, is a Maronite Christian from Lebanon.
The 1979 Soviet invasion in support of a communist government triggered a major intervention of religion into Afghan political conflict, and Islam united the multi-ethnic political opposition. Once the Soviet-backed Marxist-style regime came to power in Afghanistan, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) moved to reduce the influence of Islam. The "atheistic" and "infidel" communist PDPA imprisoned, tortured and murdered many members of the religious establishment. After National Reconciliation talks in 1987, Islam became once again the state religion and the country removed the word "Democratic" from its official name. From 1987-1992, the country's official name was the Republic of Afghanistan but today it is an Islamic Republic. For Afghans, Islam represents a potentially unifying symbolic system which offsets the divisiveness that frequently rises from the existence of a deep pride in tribal loyalties and an abounding sense of personal and family honor found in multitribal and multiethnic societies such as Afghanistan. Mosques serve not only as places of worship, but for a multitude of functions, including shelter for guests, places to meet and converse, the focus of social religious festivities and schools. Almost every Afghan has at one time during his youth studied at a mosque school; for some this is the only formal education they receive.
2. Afghan citizens are not legally permitted to convert to Christianity; although there are no explicit laws that forbid evangelizing by non-Muslims, many authorities and most of society view its toleration as contrary to the practice of Islam.
3. There is only one legally recognized Christian church building in Afghanistan, the Catholic chapel at the Italian Embassy which has been operatiotnal since the 1930s. Under the Taliban, there were many more restrictions.
The only legally recognized Christian Church Building in Afghanistan, the Catholic Chapel at the Italian Embassy
Status and Policy
4.The Constitution of Afghanistan allows the practice of religions other than Islam, as long as it is within the legal framework of Islamic laws and does not threaten the Islamic religion.
5. However, Muslims who change their faith to Christianity are subject to societal and official pressure, which may lead to confiscation of property, imprisonment, or death.
6. Several Afghan Christians have been arrested for practicing their faith, likely due to the influence of hardliners in contradiction of constitutional rights. While such cases are rare, it has been noted that the cases required international involvement for them to be freed.
7. There are also Christian religious facilities at the foreign military bases, such as an Eastern Orthodox church at the Romanian base in Kandahar.
8.There are also some Christian charities that operate in Afghanistan. American author and radio host Brant Hansen, has done charity work with CURE in Afghanistan.
9. Closet Christians.Despite the legal restrictions, many sources claim that there is a secret underground church of Afghan Christians living in Afghanistan. The US state department has stated that estimates of the size of this group range from 500 to 8000 individuals.
10. Estimates to the size of the Afghan Christian community in Afghanistan however are not reliable.
11. Due to the hostile legal environment Afghan Christians practice their faith secretly in private homes.
12. The complete Bible is available online in Dari, and the New Testament is available in Pashto. Printed versions can also be purchased outside of the country.
13. Christian converts
There are a number of Afghan Christians (both converts and their descendants) outside the country, including Christian communities in India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria, Finland, and Germany.
The Apostle Thomas and early Christianity
According to tradition, the Indo-Parthian king Gondophares was proselytized by the Apostle Thomas, who continued on to southern India, and possibly as far as Malaysia or China.
According to the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:9) in the Bible ethnic Jews and converts to Judaism from the Parthian Empire (which included parts of western Afghanistan were present at Pentecost. According to Eusebius' record, the apostles Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia.
'' Parthians and Medes and Elamites and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and [the province of ] Asia''. Acts 2:9. Amplified Bible
15. Legend based on the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas and other ancient documents suggests that Saint Thomas preached in Bactria, which is today northern Afghanistan. An early third-century Syriac work known as the Acts of Thomas connects the apostle's ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission, but the Lord appeared to him in a night vision and compelled him to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes (or Habban), to his native place in northwest India. There, Thomas found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian (Southern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Northern India) King, Gondophares. The Apostle's ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.
16. Bardaisan, writing in about 196, speaks of Christians throughout Media, Parthia and Bactria and, according to Tertullian (c.160–230), there were already a number of bishoprics within the Persian Empire by 220. By the time of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (AD 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.
16. The Church of the East
In 409, the Church of the East (also sometimes called the Nestorian Church) received state recognition from King Yazdegerd I (reigned 399–409), of the Iranian Sassanid Empire which ruled what is now Afghanistan from 224 to 579.
17. In 424, Bishop Afrid of Sakastan, an area which covered southern Afghanistan including Zaranj and Kandahar, attended the Synod of Dadyeshu. This synod was one of the most important councils of the Church of the East and determined that there would be no appeal of their disciplinary or theological problems to any other power, especially not to any church council in the Roman Empire.
18. The year 424 also marks the establishment of a bishop in Herat. In the 6th century, Herat was see of a Metropolitan See the Apostolic Church of the East, and from the 9th century Herat was also the see of the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan.
19. The significance of the Christian community in Herat can be seen in that till today there is a district outside of the city named Injil, the Arabic/Dari/Pashto word for Gospel. The Christian community was present in Herat until at least 1310.
20. Tekuder, who was a Christian convert to Islam, receives an embassy. From the Tarikh-i Jahangushay-i Juvaini by Ata-Malik Juvayni.
21. The Apostolic Church of the East established bishops in nine cities in Afghanistan including Herat (424–1310), Farah (544–1057), Zaranj (544), Bushanj (585), Badghis (585) Kandahar, and Balkh.
22. There are also ruins of a Nestorian convent from the 6th–7th centuries a short distance from Panj, Tajikistan on the north bank of the Amu Darya very close to the Afghan border, near Kunduz. The complex was discovered and identified by Soviet archeologists in 1967. It consists of dozens of small rooms carved into a rock formation.
23. Ahmed Tekuder, also known as Sultan Ahmad (reigned 1282–1284) was the sultan of the Ilkhan Empire, a Mongol Empire which stretched from eastern Turkey to Pakistan and covered most of Afghanistan. Tekuder was born Nicholas Tekuder Khan as a Nestorian Christian; however, Tekuder later embraced Islam and changed his name to Ahmed Tekuder. When Tekuder assumed the throne in 1282, he turned the Ilkhan empire into a sultanate. Tekudar zealously propagated his new faith and sternly required his ranking offices to do the same. The Ilkhan Empire ultimately adopted Islam as a state religion in 1295. The Church of the East was almost completely eradicated across Afghanistan and Persia during the reign of Timur (1336–1405).
24. Early Jesuit explorers
In 1581 and 1582 respectively, the Jesuit and Spanish Montesserat and the Portuguese Bento de Góis were warmly welcomed by the Islamic Emperor Akbar, but there was no lasting presence by the Jesuits in the country.
25. The Armenian Apostolic Church
There were Armenian merchants living in Kabul as early as 1667 who were in contact with the Jesuits in Mughal (modern day India). It is unclear if these Armenian merchants were Christians but their presence suggests an Armenian community in Kabul in the 17th century. Kabul was under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Armenian Apostolic Church Perso-Indian diocese in New Julfa, Esfahan (modern day Iran), which sent Armenian priests to the community; however, no Armenian priest came after 1830.
26. In 1755, Jesuit missionary to Lahore Joseph Tiefenthaler reported that Sultan Ahmad Shah Bahadur took several Armenian gun makers from Lahore to Kabul.
27. Anglican missionary Joseph Wolff preached to their descendants in Kabul in Persian in 1832; by his account, the community numbered about 23 people.
29. The only reported baptism of an ethnic Afghan in the Armenian Church was said to be a robber who broke into the church through the roof and fell three times while attempting to leave with the valuable silver vessels stored there. When he was discovered, he begged for mercy and later asked to be baptized.
30. The Armenian church building near Bala Hissar was destroyed during the Second Anglo-Afghan War by British troops; the community received compensation from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office for their loss, but the church was never rebuilt.
31. As late as 1870, British reports showed 18 Armenian Christians remaining in Kabul. In 1896, Abdur Rahman Khan, Emir of Afghanistan, even sent a letter to the Armenian community at Calcutta, India (now Kolkata), asking that they send ten or twelve families to Kabul to "relieve the loneliness" of their fellow Armenians, whose numbers had continued to dwindle. However, despite an initial reply of interest, in the end, none of the Armenians of Calcutta accepted the offer. The following year, the final remnants of the Armenians were expelled after a letter from Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to the Afghan ruler questioning the loyalty of the Armenians.
32. The Armenians of Kabul took refuge in Peshawar. It is worth mentioning that these refugees carried with them their religious books and ancient manuscripts. An article on this issue in the Englishman (Calcutta) dated 11 February 1907 stated: “These people in the time of the late Ameer Abdul Rahman had dwindled down to ten families. They were, for reasons unknown, banished to Peshawar and brought down with them a collection of manuscripts said to be of immense antiquity. Indeed, they are so old that none of the families possessing them are able to read them… In any case an examination by experts of the manuscripts now said to be in Peshawar, should yield some valuable results. The families themselves are unaware of the history of the first settlement in Kabul, except that it dates back to the very earliest times.”
33. Armenian Archbishop Sahak Ayvadian, after this publication went to Peshawar for a pastoral visit to these Armenians as well as to examine the books and manuscripts. On his return to Calcutta he presented some books to the Armenian Church Library, which he had obtained from the refugees.
34. 20th century onwards
The only legally recognized church in Afghanistan today is in the Italian embassy. Italy was the first country to recognize Afghanistan's independence in 1919, and the Afghan government asked how it could thank Italy. Rome requested the right to build a Catholic chapel, which was being requested by international technicians then living in the Afghan capital. A clause giving Italy the right to build a chapel within its embassy was included in the Italian-Afghan treaty of 1921, and that same year the Barnabites arrived to start giving pastoral care. The actual pastoral work began in 1933 when the chapel international technicians had asked for was built. In the 1950s, the simple cement chapel was finished.
35. Motorcade for President Eisenhower's visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Afghanistan in 1959
37. After 1994, Little Sisters of Jesus were the only Catholic religious workers allowed to remain in Afghanistan, as they had been there since 1955 and their work was renowned. An official from President Mohammed Najibullah's government in 1992 visited Moretti for planning a new church compound, but nothing came out of it as Najibullah was shortly afterwards deposed by the rebels during the conflict.
38. In 1959, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Afghanistan. The Islamic Center of Washington had recently been built in Washington, DC for the Muslim diplomats there and President Eisenhower requested permission from King Zahir Shah to construct a Protestant church in Kabul on a reciprocal basis for the use of the diplomatic corp and expatriate community in Afghanistan. Christians from all around the world contributed to its construction. At its dedication, the cornerstone which was carved in Afghan alabaster marble read: "To the glory of God 'Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood' this building is dedicated as 'a house of prayer for all nations' in the reign of H.M. Zahir Shah, May 17, 1970 A.D., 'Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone'." However the church building however was destroyed 17 June 1973, during the republican coup d'état by Mohammed Daoud Khan against the monarchy. Since then, no place of worship has been authorized for Protestant Christians.
39. Christians were persecuted after the Taliban came to power in the mid-1990s. The number of converts to Christianity increased as the U.S. presence increased after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Most of the Christian converts lived in urban areas, so the threat from the Taliban was minimal. But many Christian converts started fleeing Afghanistan (mostly to India) around 2005, fearing their identities might become public. A 2015 study estimated some 3,300 believers in Christ from a Muslim background living in the country.
40. Anti-Christian incidents since 2001
5 August 2001, 24 workers for the NGO Shelter Now International were arrested by the ruling Taliban. The charity built homes for refugees and the poor. 16 were Afghans and 8 were westerners. The workers were eventually freed after a rescue mission in November 2001. The westerners had been six women and two men, from Germany, America and Australia. The staff of Shelter Now had been accused of converting Afghan Muslims to Christianity.
41. In 2002, Afghanistan adopted a new press law that contained a sanction against publication of “matters contrary to the principles of Islam or offensive to other religions and sects.”
42. In 2003, Mullah Dadullah (Pashto: ملا دادالله آخوند), a top Taliban commander, said that they would continue to fight until the "Jews and Christians, all foreign crusaders" were expelled from Afghanistan.
43. In January 2004, Afghanistan adopted a new constitution that provides for the freedom of non-Muslim religious groups to exercise their faith and declares that the state will abide by the UN Charter, international treaties, international conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the constitution does not extend explicit protections for the right to freedom of religion or belief to every individual, particularly to individual Muslims, the overwhelming majority of Afghanistan's population, or minority religious communities.
44. In 2005 President Hamid Karzai showed his respects by attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
45. In February 2006, an Afghan Christian, Abdul Rahman (Persian: عبدالرحمن) (born 1965) was arrested in February 2006 and threatened with the death penalty for converting to Christianity. On 26 March 2006, under heavy pressure from foreign governments, the court returned his case to prosecutors, citing "investigative gaps" and suspicions that he was 'mentally unbalanced'. He was released from prison to his family on the night of 27 March. On 29 March, Abdul Rahman arrived in Italy after the Italian government offered him asylum.
46. On 19 July 2007, 23 South Korean missionaries were captured and held hostage by members of the Taliban while passing through Ghazni Province. Two male hostages were executed before the deal was reached between the Taliban and the South Korean government. The group, composed of sixteen women and seven men, was captured while traveling from Kandahar to Kabul by bus on a mission sponsored by the Saemmul Presbyterian Church. Of the 23 hostages captured, two men, Bae Hyeong-gyu, a 42-year-old South Korean pastor of Saemmul Church, and Shim Seong-min, a 29-year-old South Korean man, were executed on 25 and 30 July, respectively. Later, with negotiations making progress, two women, Kim Gyeong-ja and Kim Ji-na, were released on 13 August and the remaining 19 hostages on 29 and 30 August.
47. In September 2008, the Afghan parliament passed a new media law which prohibits works and materials that are contrary to the principles of Islam, works and materials offensive to other religions and sects, and propagation of religions other than Islam.
48. In October 2008 Gayle Williams (1974? – 20 October 2008), an aid worker for SERVE Afghanistan of joint British and South African nationality, was shot on her way to work in Kabul by two men on a motorbike. Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed responsibility for her death and said she had been killed "because she was working for an organization which was preaching Christianity in Afghanistan".
49. In May 2009, it was made public that Christian groups had published Bibles in the Pashtun language and the Dari language, intended to convert Afghans from Islam to Christianity. The Bibles were sent to soldiers at the Bagram Air Base. American military authorities report that Bible distribution was not official policy, and when a chaplain became aware of the soldiers' plans the Bibles were confiscated and, eventually, burned.
50. In March 2010 the remaining buildings on the leased property where the 1970 built Protestant church had stood were destroyed. The buildings had been unofficially used by the international Christian community as a meeting place. The 99-year lease of the property which was paid for in gold in 1970 was not honored by the Afghan courts.
51. In June 2010 Noorin TV, a small Afghan television station, showed footage of men it said were reciting Christian prayers in Dari and being baptized. The television station said the men were Afghans who had converted to Christianity. Two humanitarian agencies, Norwegian Church Aid and Church World Service of the United States, were suspended after it was suggested in this report that they had converted Afghan Muslims to Christianity. Later Noorin TV confirmed that there was no evidence against the two agencies and that they had been named because of the word “church” in their names.
52. The report sparked anti-Christian protests in Kabul and in Mazar-e Sharif.
53. In parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a deputy of the lower house, called for Muslim converts to Christianity to be executed and Qazi Nazir Ahmad, a lawmaker from the western province of He-rat, said killing a converted Muslim was “not a crime”.
54. One of the men shown in the video, among the 25 Christians arrested was Said Musa (also spelled Sayed Mussa), an Afghan Red Cross worker, who was later sentenced to death for converting to Christianity.
55. On 5 August 2010, ten members of the International Assistance Mission Nuristan Eye Camp team were killed in Kuran wa Munjan District of Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan. The team was attacked as it was returning from Nuristan to Kabul. One team member was spared, the rest of the team were killed immediately.
Those killed were six Americans, two Afghans, one Briton and one German. Both Hizb-e Islami and the Taliban initially claimed responsibility for the attack, accusing the doctors of proselytism and spying.
These claims were later refuted by Taliban leaders in Nuristan and Badakhshan, who stated that they had confirmed the dead were bona-fide aid workers, condemned the killings as murder, and offered their condolences to the families of those killed.
The attack was the deadliest strike against foreign aid workers in the Afghanistan war. The killings underscored the suspicion Christian-affiliated groups face from some Afghans and government opponents and the wider risks faced by aid workers in the country.
56. On 9 August 2010, two Afghan and two aid workers were arrested for preaching Christianity in western Herat province. Two NGO workers were deported from the country and Afghan were kept for longer period. After a long negotiation the government freed them in Kabul.
57. In November 2010, Another man, Shoaib Assadullah Musawi, was jailed in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif after being accused of giving the New Testament to a friend, who then turned him in.
Shoaib Assadullah was freed from prison on 30 March 2011 and on 14 April 2011 received a passport and left Afghanistan.
58. In February 2011, International Christian Concern lauded the release of Said Musa (also spelled Sayed Mussa) an Afghan man who had been imprisoned for nine months for converting to Christianity.
59. '' Hussain Andaryas estimates there are 200- 800 Afghan Christians worldwide. He bases that figure on messages sent to his ministry since it began in 1996. Even if some of those messages were not genuine, he said, the number would be more than evened out by Christians living in remote areas without access to computers. However, the Pashtun translation of the bible has a lot of grammatical errors meaning that the number of Pashtuns of Afghanistan who are a Christian would be very, very low, or quite possibly none at all. Convert Case Sparks Surge of Interest in Christianity Among Afghans''
60. "We are Christians by the one name of the Messiah. As regards our customs our brethren abstain from everything that is contrary to their profession.... Parthian Christians do not take two wives.... Our Bactrian sisters do not practice promiscuity with strangers. Persians do not take their daughters to wife. Medes do not desert their dying relations or bury them alive. Christians in Edessa do not kill their wives or sisters who commit fornication but keep them apart and commit them to the judgment of God. Christians in Hatra do not stone thieves" (quoted in Mark Dickens: The Church of the East Archived 25 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine)
What prospect should we expect from the new leaders. What can be done to safe guard freedom of worship?
Let's have your inputs in our comments section or email your suggestions to us @ email@example.com
God bless you as you express your godly love.
Edited by Ambassador T. Brikins
The free encyclopedia
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"Afghanistan First Lady Rula Ghani Moves into the Limelight". BBC. 15 October 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
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AsiaNews.it. "A church open to the public still a 'remote' dream in Afghanistan". www.asianews.it. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
"Letter From Fr. David Alexander to St. Anthony's Parish". Antiochian.org. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
Easter service at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, 25 April 2011
Hussain Andaryas estimates there are 200- 800 Afghan Christians worldwide. He bases that figure on messages sent to his ministry since it began in 1996. Even if some of those messages were not genuine, he said, the number would be more than evened out by Christians living in remote areas without access to computers. However, the Pashtun translation of the bible has a lot of grammatical errors meaning that the number of Pashtuns of Afghanistan who are a Christian would be very, very low, or quite possibly none at all.
" Merillat, Herbert Christian (1997). "Wandering in the East". The Gnostic Apostle Thomas. Archived from the original on 27 September 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
"We are Christians by the one name of the Messiah. As regards our customs our brethren abstain from everything that is contrary to their profession.... Parthian Christians do not take two wives.... Our Bactrian sisters do not practice promiscuity with strangers. Persians do not take their daughters to wife. Medes do not desert their dying relations or bury them alive. Christians in Edessa do not kill their wives or sisters who commit fornication but keep them apart and commit them to the judgment of God. Christians in Hatra do not stone thieves" (quoted in Mark Dickens: The Church of the East Archived 25 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine).
Willison, Walker (1985). A history of the Christian church. Simon & Schuster. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-684-18417-3.
Sanasarian, Eliz (Summer–Fall 1998). "Babi-Bahais, Christians, and Jews in Iran". Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society. 31 (3–4): 615–624. JSTOR 4311193.
"Christianity in Iran, a Brief History". Culture of IRAN. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
"Location of Nestorian Bishops". Nestorian.org. Archived from the original on 15 May 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
"Chronology of Catholic Dioceses: Afghanistan" (in Norwegian). Katolsk.no. 15 May 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
The Rev. J. N. Allen's account of his visit to the Armenian Church at Cabul in 1842 states: "1842, 1 October.I went into the town and accompanied by Captain Boswell, 2nd Regiment, Bengal N.I. set forth to make inquiries respecting a small community of Armenian Christians, of whom I had heard from my friend the Rev. G. Pigott, who had baptized two of their children when he visited Cabul in 1839, as Chaplain to the Bombay Army under Lord Keane. After some inquirey, we discovered them in a street in the Bala Hissar, leading from Jellalabad Gate; their buildings were on the North side of the street. We went up an alley and turned into a small court on the left, surrounded by buildings and filled with the implements of their trade. A little door led from this court into their church, a small dark building, but procuring lights, I found it was carpeted and kept clean, apparently with great care.", as cited on http://www.angelfire.com/hi/Azgaser/kabul.html
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/260050/america-quiet-execution-afghan-christian-said-musa-paul-marshall# retrieved 26 May 2012| quote="There are reports that Said Musa, whose situation I described at Christmas, will soon be executed for the ‘crime’ of choosing to become a Christian. Musa was one of about 25 Christians arrested on May 31, 2010, after a May 27 Noorin TV program showed video of a worship service held by indigenous Afghan Christians; he was arrested as he attempted to seek asylum at the German embassy. He converted to Christianity eight years ago, is the father of six young children, had a leg amputated after he stepped on a landmine while serving in the Afghan Army, and now has a prosthetic leg. His oldest child is eight and one is disabled (she cannot speak).