A Message From Our Bishop Visitor
FROM OUR BISHOP VISITOR
Sadness, and yet Hope against Hope...
It is hard to grasp the fullness of the tragedy that we have been watching in Kabul over these past weeks. As the final UK flight carrying civilian refugees departed, and the air-lift finished, hundreds of entitled passengers remained in Afghanistan at great risk. Their immediate future must be uncertain, along with that of the many, many people who have made their way to the border in the hope of another exit route. The world watches, and our hearts go out to so many for whom we must now pray: to refugees who have got on a flight and have now to make their new life in a foreign country; to those who remain behind, fearful and in some cases terrified; to women, whose rights and status seem once again likely to be undermined by a fundamentalist and undemocratic government; to the victims, wounded and killed and bereaved, of the terrible bomb attack in that last week of the air-lift; to the American soldiers who were killed on almost their last day of duty, and to their families who will have received the dreaded notification that night somewhere in the United States…
How do we respond to this? The two decades of western involvement in Afghanistan can seem to have been undone in just the past few months. But that is not so, and nor were the efforts of our Armed Forces in vain – and certainly those of our colleagues who gave their lives in Afghanistan did not do so in vain. In addition to two decades of peace and relative security in that troubled country, which of course contributed also to the security of the wider world in keeping terrorism in check, their legacy is a new vision of society. That vision has been offered to the Afghan people, and we may hope and pray that it continues to bear fruit for the future.
So is there hope? As Christians, we know that there is always hope. But there are hard lessons here for everyone, particularly around the question of living graciously with each other. The word ‘Taliban’ might be translated as ‘those who study’: a group set apart by their study of the law, by their credentials as followers of the true scholars. That can bring gifts, but not if it generates pride and removes its followers from the moral requirement to live kindly and graciously and humbly. And was there not also an arrogance in the West’s occupation of Afghanistan twenty years ago, thinking that we could adapt a very different culture into the principles of liberal Western democracy? We weren’t able to do that. But we were able to offer a vision of what a new Afghanistan might be, and the efforts of our military in rebuilding that country deserve to be remembered with the greatest respect.
I hope sincerely that Afghans who are seriously at risk will not be deserted, and that our promises to them will be honoured. I hope that international pressure will call the Taliban to a more moderate form of rule than they have shown in the past, although that may be a task for the longer haul. And I hope most of all that we, the global community who have watched this terrible episode in human history, will learn again the lessons of humility and repentance.
Kyrie Eleison: Lord, have mercy.
Bishop of Sodor and Man, Bishop Visitor to the Church Lads’ and Church Girls’ Brigade