How do we respond to the Afghan tragedy?

The reports coming out of Afghanistan are heart-breaking as we see the Taliban return to power in Kabul 20 years after the Afghan war that followed the 911 terror attacks.  We don’t need to second guess what Taliban rule will involve because we have been there before. Taliban rule meant

  • Denial of education to girls over the age of 10
  • Enforced sharia law and brutal punishment
  • Terror training camps and the harbouring of A Qaeda.

What can be done about this in terms of political response is uncertain. There is unlikely to be the level of support for military action that there was back in 2001, Iraq and Libya put paid to that and for many there are long held question marks about the wisdom or morality of western intervention. The UK parliament has been recalled for Wednesday but by then I suspect any agreed actions are likely to be too little and too late.

Yet, I think that there are things that Christians can do in response, even when we feel that our response is feeble. The first is that we can speak out against any pretence of moral neutrality and challenge those who equivocate on those things. That’s why for example I took on head on the arguments from Roshan Salih over the weekend.  When people reduce the issue of protecting young girls from become sex slaves, denied an education and treated as prisoners in their homes to a “red herring” as he later did, it’s important that there are people ready to speak out, to say that those young lives matter and their pleas for justice do not go unheard.

People like Salih mock and attack western liberal democracy only no the back of the freedoms that such societies give them to do so. Now you and I may not be so concerned about western liberal democracy but things go further. As people like Tom Holland have helped us to see in recent years, those values and liberties that give Salih freedom of speech are rooted in Christian values that came with the Gospel. So, we need to go further, our response as Christians needs to be deeper than challenging political and religious ideologies, we need to point people to the Gospel not to western democracy as the basis for hope.

This is important because there are going to be refugees coming from Afghanistan looking for safety but also looking for hope. Are we ready to welcome them? Over the past year, we’ve heard a lot about being ready to receive people from Hong Kong. I’m not sure why we have heard so much about being Hong Kong ready relative to the focus on other immigrants and refugees over the years (Iwould prefer to see us ready to welcome all with the gospel) but now there is another need on the horizon I hope we are as ready to receive Afghanis as we are to welcome people from HK. This may also mean that we need to put pressure on our government through our MPs to be ready to take responsibility for welcoming and supporting those at risk.

It  is important that we do  not give up on Afghanistan and the wider Muslim world.  These are still places that desperately need the gospel. Let’s keep praying for the church in Afghanistan and even though the country will become less open let’s pray that people will still be called, given the opportunity and ready to take the gospel to Afghanis.  

Finally, it’s vital that we don’t give up on God’s sovereignty in all this too. The events this week caught US intelligence and western governments by surprise but not God. He is still on his throne and his purposes are not thwarted by the Taliban. We trust in him that he will work for the good of those who love him and for his glory in Afghanistan.

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