The recent re-capture of much of Afghanistan by the Taliban has come as shocking and disturbing news to us all. However, equally disturbing have been some of the reactions to it. Take for example this tweet from Roshan M Salih, editor of British Muslim news site 5 Pillars.
Now, I write as someone who was uncertain about the wisdom of the Afghan war and more sceptical too of the Iraq war (I remember talking with my then pastor about the ethical challenges of working in the defence industry when you were not in agreement with the outcome for which your work was being used). I think that it is possible to share those concerns whilst at the same time recognising the danger in what Mr Salih is saying.
Whilst avoiding significant bloodshed is always desirable, the fact that different countries and their peoples choose to dig in and resist a perceived enemy often at deep sacrificial cost reminds us that it is not as simplistic as “peace good, war bad.” For comparison, many who lived through the Battle of Britain would have preferred that it did not come to that. The nightly bombing of London and other major cities came at great cost. But would a speedy victory for Nazi Germany have been better and was Churchill wrong to suggest that we would “fight them on the beeches.”
Similarly, whilst not a conflict with air strikes and troops on the ground, the lengthy Cold War was not great thing either and we now live with one of the costs in terms of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. However, the alternative scenario where the west acquiesced to Soviet communism would not have been a better outcome.
The reality in each of those cases is that the brutal consequences for freedom and the singling out of specific groups of people for persecution, concentration camps, torture and death meant that the costly sacrifices involved were considered worth it. Similarly, we cannot underestimate the consequences of a Taliban victory today, especially one that is freely handed to them. It will not mean peace for the future victims of terrorists that they harbour. More importantly and immediately right now it will not mean peace for those who oppose the Taliban, who want to live a different life and follow different beliefs, not just Christians and secularists but those following different strands of Islam too. Nor will it mean peace for the many women and girls who will be denied an education, forced to wear the Burqa and imprisoned at home subjected to legalised domestic abuse.
This tweet gives a better on the ground perspective of what a Taliban victory means.
For these reasons, if Kabul falls it will be costly. Further, there is a principle at stake here. The grotesque implications of the tweet are that it’s wrong to resist and that when victims do then they are to blame for the further harm they come to. And if some of us see an implied, somewhat sinister threat here that we too should comply with the Islamists if and when they act on these shores then that is understandable -though I hope it is more a case of naivety on Salih’s part.
What happens in Afghanistan over the next few days is of extreme importance. To be sure, we ultimately rest on God’s sovereignty in this matter and recognise that there will be evil and suffering in the world until Christ returns. However, it is still right to pray, not just for peace but that justice will be done and that there will be a real and lasting peace that protects the vulnerable of Afghanistan.