Afghan Muslims in Montreal

Quick Facts

  • Afghans have a strong sense of national pride of who they are and the fact that they have never been conquered for long.    
  • Afghans have a great sense and practice of hospitality. 
  • Afghans have more of a “tribal” identity in which they are able to relate to their own people group over other language groups.         
  • There is a strong gravitational pull toward the Montreal metro area due to the large already-existing community of Afghans as well as halal markets, cafes, restaurants, and social life.
  • Languages they speak: Dari, Pashto, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi.

When did Afghan Muslims first come to Canada?

Afghans are relative newcomers to Montreal, with the first wave of immigrants arriving in the early 1980s after the then-Soviet Union invaded their country. Because of ongoing political turbulence in Afghanistan, Afghans continue to settle here.

Prior to 1978, less than 1,000 Afghans lived in Canada. After decades of political unrest, the number has increased, with approximately 84,000 reported in the Census of 2016. Following the evacuation of Kabul in 2021, the Canadian government promised to relocate up to 20,000 Afghans, most of whom will likely reside in the metropolitan areas of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.

Where do Afghan Muslims predominantly gather in the Montreal Metro Area?

  • Many Afghans are concentrated in the Laval region and Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension of the city
  • Maison Afghane-Canadienne (MAFCAN) is a non-profit based in Montreal. MAFCAN helps new Afghan-Canadians adjust to the city, and also provides a variety of services for Afghans to help them succeed emotionally, physically, educationally, economically, and spiritually. They serve as an effective communication bridge between Afghans and the city at large.
  • The Afghan Women’s Centre of Montreal began when the founder, Makai Harif, realized that many Afghan women felt isolated. The organization has grown from a few women meeting in homes to an organization offering support to hundreds of women and children through numerous projects.
  • The Afghan Youth Association at Montreal was founded in 2012 to engage Afghan youth in Montreal to build a strong network for growth and encouragement in their isolated community.

Population estimate in Montreal: 9,500

What are Afghan Muslims' lives like?

  • Many Montreal Afghans are survivors of trauma; almost every single Afghan there is a refugee, comes from a family of refugees, or is connected to refugees in some way. 
  • There is a higher per capita incidence of PTSD and other forms of mental issues among the Montreal Afghan populace than the rest of the Montreal population
  • In the past decade, the Afghan community has become fairly well established. Ten years ago, there weren't many families who owned houses. It is estimated that 70% of Afghans now own a house.  
  • Most Afghan women/girls were not allowed to seek formal education in Afghanistan before coming to Canada
  • Afghans have been displaced due to decades of war, starting with the Russian invasion of 1979-1989, the civil war that resulted from the destruction and chaos that was created in post-1989 Afghanistan (this included the reign of the Taliban), and the aftermath of 9/11 on the country. Consequently, Afghans have become one of the world’s largest refugee populations with a diaspora all over the world.
  • There are significant divisions between Montreal Afghans based on ethnicity (Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek), languages (Pashto and Dari), regions (urban, rural) and expressions of Islam (Sunni, Shiite).
  • The Afghan Soccer League has leagues for youth and adults that compete outside during the summer and inside during the winter months.
  • Picking apples is a favorite fall activity for residents of Montreal. A family who evacuated during the Kabul evacuation in 2021 was able to enjoy picking apples after their hurried departure from their homeland. You can read here their story.

What do Afghan Muslims believe?

  • Islam (Sunni---as high as 80% of the population); the remaining are Shias; apart from Muslims, there are also small minorities of Afghan Sikhs and Hindus
  • In general, Afghans are people of Muslim faith. In Montreal they do not practise a radical fundamentalist interpretation of Islam like that of the Taliban. Rather than wholesale rejecting the radical form of Islam that has often been used as a tool of repression in their homeland, Afghans here often rely on Islam for support when confronted with stress. 
  • Since there isn’t a primarily Afghan mosque in Montreal, Afghans attend other mosques in the area or create prayer areas in their associations and businesses. The Islamic Centre of Quebec is the oldest mosque in Montreal. It was founded in 1967 after the government passed a law in 1965 allowing Afghans to register births and marriages.
  • The Iranian Islamic Center is on the North Shore and The Islamic Community Center is on the South Shore.

PRAY
for Afghan Muslims in Montreal

  • Lord, due to Islamic radicalism, some Afghans are distancing themselves from serious commitment to Islam. Raise up long-term laborers to disciple them and direct them to the Messiah.
  • Lord, raise up Afghans believers in the city. May they establish loving communities of faith in Christ who reach other North Africans.
  • Lord, most Afghans face challenges finding work. Encourage your followers to help meet the needs of Moroccan Arabs.
  • Lord, may Afghans in Montreal find freedom in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
  • There are few known Afghan followers of Jesus in Montreal 
  • There are a few believers, churches, & at least 3 mission organizations focusing outreach to Afghans in Montreal. Pray for that to increase and multiply. 
  • Pray the Lord will raise up laborers among Montreal Afghans to evangelize, disciple believers, & start churches.
  • Pray that current workers among Montreal Afghans be connected to existing Afghan believers
  • Pray for Christians to show Afghans the power of Christ’s love, & empower Montreal Christians to be instruments of peace.
  • Pray for Montreal evangelical involvement among Afghans: it will likely require developing a discreet yet strategically intentional presence among Afghans via social media, as they are very active and connected online, especially back to Afghanistan via the Internet
  • Pray for Afghans disillusioned with Islam to find salvation, freedom, and hope in Jesus.
  • Pray for supernatural protection, courage, and perseverance for Afghan believers in Montreal.
  • Pray for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to have transformative encounters with Jesus.
  • Pray for food and medical care for millions in urgent physical need in Afghanistan
  • Networking and collaborating with existing Montreal Afghan believers, churches, & organizations (and emerging ones) will be wise. 
  • Pray for more Montreal believers to live among Afghans in their own buildings/communities (the Move-In approach)                 
  • Pray for more Montreal believers to work among Afghans (perhaps in labor jobs)         
  • Avoid aggressive, confrontational, one-time evangelism approaches that have no intention of following up with individual Afghans        
  • Don’t spend so much “tea drinking” time (although very important to aid in establishing friendships) without ever getting to a gospel worldview conversation 

Resources

For additonal resources on Afghan Muslim people in Montreal, visit UPG North America .
Prayercast is a website dedicated to activating prayer around the world.
For prayer resources on Afghan Muslim peoples, click the Prayercast logo.

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