Yesterday I wrote about where the battle for Afghanistan was lost. I argued that the fate of the Afghan people was sealed at Doha when the US signed a deal with the Taliban. Consider the impact of that. The people knew well what a return of the Taliban would mean: torture, rape, slavery, death. Yet their experience, from their perspective is one of being let down, of total betrayal by their own corrupt leaders who left in a hurry with bags stashed full of dollar notes, by the Trump administration that signed the deal, by Joe Biden who followed through and left them to their fate and by the rest of the West including British ministers who were allegedly sunning themselves on holiday when they could have been making calls to save brave translators.
So, what Afghans need right now is to discover someone who is faithful, who will not let them down, “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” They need to meet with the God who won’t desert or betray them, who is faithful to the end. In the Gospel they can meet that God, the one who keeps his covenant promises, the one who has inexhaustible depths of mercy, love and grace to pour out. They need Jesus, the one who promises he won’t lose any of those the Father has Him from his hand.
This means first that we should give ourselves to prayer for those who have stayed in the country either out of choice or because they cannot leave who are part of God’s people. Right now they are in real danger as the Taliban send threatening messages to them. As well as praying for their safety, we should pray that they will be able to witness to God’s faithfulness to them. We pray that people will be able to see their hope in the Lord even through trial and persecution, even through death knowing that death does not have the last word in their lives.
It also means that we need to be thinking about what it means to respond to refugees coming into our countries, towns and cities. It’s important to remember that for many from Muslim backgrounds, Christianity is intrinsically linked with the West, with Great Britain and America in particular. So, given that they will associate our countries with betrayal and unfaithfulness we cannot assume they will associate our faith and our God with anything other than the same. Of course we want to tell them that our countries are not Christian and the many unwholesome things they will witness when they arrive are nothing to do with true Christian faith. However, I doubt that they will be able to hear such words as anything more than excuses. Indeed, I suspect that we are unlikely even to get a hearing.
We are going to need to show something of that faithfulness, to show that there is something different and distinctive about true faith in the faithful God. This means that it’s important that we don’t rush to start projects to welcome refugees that we are unable to sustain and continue with. It means that we must not treat refugees as mere projects. It means that we will need to model perseverance and patience with ESOL classes even when students keep coming back or drop in and out without seeming to make progress.
It also means that when we meet people who have been through so much, who display signs of PTSD, whose stories get confused and contradictory, who seem to let us down, maybe even lie to us, maybe even seem to let us down and betray our trust that we do not give up on them. It means that we don’t give up on refugees if our love and care for them doesn’t result in immediate conversions or even a spiritual harvest in 5, 10, 15 years. We need to commit to people, to genuinely love them and to walk with them for the long haul.
We need to live lives that show we’ve met with the faithful God so that they too can meet him – this is their great need.