Editor's note: A new variant of this prayer request circulating in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 claims that 229 Christian missionaries have been sentenced to death in that country.
Appeals for prayers on behalf of 22 Christian missionary families about to be executed in Afghanistan have circulated periodically since early 2009, originally both as an e-mail forward and as a text message sent to cell phones:
Please pray for 22 missionary families that are to be executed by islamists in afganistan. forward this as fast as you can so that many will pray.
Pls pray 4 22 Christian Missionary families to be executed by Islamists in Afghanistan. Pls forward this msg 2 others as fast as u can so that many will pray.
These messages are apparently unfounded: The same message has been making the rounds since February 2009, yet we never turned up any information from news reports or human rights groups documenting that 22 missionaries and their families were being held captive, or were (about to be) executed, in Afghanistan.
That is not to say that mission work in Afghanistan is without peril. On 19 July 2007, 23 church workers from South Korea were taken hostage by the Taliban. Two of their number were executed (shot to death and abandoned by the roadside), with the remaining 21 eventually released after the South Korean government reportedly paid $20 million for their freedom.
The Koreans had apparently been incautious, traveling unescorted by bus through an area of Afghanistan frequently singled out by the Taliban and highway robbers.