A Short Reflection following the fall of Kabul – by Isaac Khan
Here I am! Send me! Like the prophet Isaiah I have always felt that my service to the nation through the Army has been a spiritual one. Isaiah responded to the call when he heard the voice of the Lord “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” My willingness has afforded me the privilege of serving in Afghanistan on two occasions for a total of fifteen months. In that time, I have fallen in love with that country; it’s rugged mountains, the people I came to know and the lifelong friendships I formed with our soldiers I served alongside. We all felt that we were doing something worthwhile there and making a difference. As such, the fall of Kabul this week has conjured up a whole range of feelings for all of us.
In my ministry I have the privilege of hearing from many soldiers and from the families of soldiers who have died there. Their emotions and questions are varied and valid. All are surprised at the speed of recent events, some are experiencing grief regarding the loss of what we achieved, anger at the impending evil that will be unleased on Afghanistan’s many good people, asking ourselves if our time there was worth it? Many are feeling angry and frustrated that there are still so many who had worked alongside us who can’t get out – we are very concerned for their welfare.
Many of us made friendships with the locals who worked with us and alongside us. As the situation deteriorated many of these good folks reached out to us to help them in seeking asylum because they knew that their lives were in grave danger. One such person Kasim (not his real name), reached out to me. He has been on the run for over a year with his wife and three children. The Taliban discovered he had worked for us and were sending threatening messages. In recent weeks and days, he sent me some of these short messages:
militants are everywhere in Kabul, I’m in a basement right now….. OK brother I just burn most of my paperwork in morning but I keep my ID cards and passports in a bag thank you brother I can’t use a lot phone because no electricity but I keep checking msg… thank you so much for your hard work I really appreciate we see what happens maybe I get chance to get out from country then we try to seek asylum… maybe in few days things get quite and I get chance to run in any country but I let you know brother… I should try in airport maybe I get any chance I went there like thousands of people out there militants beat them and sometimes they fire and I wear traditional clothes and cover my face same with my family they said in news that we forgive everyone but people saying that they lying…
These are the types of desperation we hear in the conversations we have been having with people who had worked with us. A common comment I hear from those helping Afghans to get out is ‘we left our mates behind; we never leave our mates behind’. This will have moral ramifications for a generation of veterans who served in Afghanistan.
Evil manifests itself in many ways all over the world and Afghanistan has had more than its fair share. As a nation they have had many challenges over the centuries. It has been a gateway or thoroughfare for many conquerors and they have all left their mark and influence in that land while sometimes pillaging its riches – (Alexander the Great, the Persian Empire encompassed Afghanistan, Gangies Khan, the Russians, Brits to name a few). As such its borders have been defined by others, often splitting ethnicities and language groups across current borders. It’s ethnic and sectarian divisions are manipulated, agitated and fuelled by outsiders for their own gain and agendas. Drug lords wield enormous power and influence – Afghanistan supplies the vast majority of the world’s opium, both legal and illegal. It is widely believed that many in power and positions of influence are corrupt. These and other layers of complex problems keeps so many of its good people under bondage.
‘We are the unlucky country’ said an interpreter as she sobbed on my shoulder. She had just lost her nephew in a suicide bomb attack less than 150 meters away from where we stood. We sat under a lone tree as I tried to console her. She was sobbing and crying out to God for mercy and saying to me ‘we are nothing, we are nothing, we Afghanis are nothing’. After some 20 minutes of sobbing, I asked her if she would like me to pray, she said yes, please do Padre. As I prayed for her, her family and her nation she began calling out repeatedly ‘help us Jesus, Oh Jesus help us’!
All western forces in Afghanistan are under strict orders that we are not to proselytise the locals. I followed those orders – as such I never was able to verbally share the Gospel nor to pass on a copy of the Bible to that interpreter or with any other local. If found to be doing so it would have brought our mission to a screeching halt. While my primary ministry was to our ADF members, I take comfort in the fact that with God’s help I did the best I could do with the resources available to me at that time for both our team and the Afghanis. That is the message I have been giving our soldiers and ex-service personnel this week. We responded to a call from our government who were elected by our people. We made a difference for those with whom we had a chance. A generation of young people, including women and children have had a different experience only because of our presence there. It is my sincere prayer that these people and those who have managed to get out over the last several years will be able to help others.
I encourage our church to join with me to pray for Afghanistan and its people.
- I have been told that there are Christians there who meet secretly. They will be living in unimaginable uncertainty. Pray for courage, strength and pray that resources will reach them. If you are able, I encourage you to give financially to the ministry of Barnabas Fund (https://barnabasfund.org/) who minister to persecuted Christians
- You can donate to Global Mission Partners Afghanistan Appeal through this link: https://www.gmp.org.au/what-we-do/projects/afganistan/afghanistan-emergency-appeal
- Pray that the militants who carry out evil in the name of God will have their eyes opened and see that surely what they do could not be from God
- Pray for those who have fled their homes and are living in tents. The colder months are about 8 weeks away. Parts of Afghanistan gets colder than many European cities and has more snow than the Swiss Alps.
- Pray against the evil drug trade and that the drug lords will turn from their ways
- Pray for those who have worked with nations like ours and have applied for asylum. Pray that their applications will be hastened through the various bureaucratic processes.
- Thank God for our veterans. Ask God that they will find healing from the traumas of war.
- Pray for the families of soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan.
- Pray for our government and the leaders of the other nations who deployed troops to Afghanistan. Help them to make wise decisions. They are having to make decisions in what appears to be a rapidly changing global geo-political landscape while grappling with domestic responses to COVID-19.
Psalm 59 (A prayer for Afghan Christians)
Deliver me from my enemies, O God; protect me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from bloodthirsty men. See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, O LORD. I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight! … O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.
Colossians 1: 15-23
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.
A Prayer by Anglican Bishop (Iran) Hassam Dehqani-Tafti (prayed after his son was murdered)
O God we remember not only our son but also his murderers; not because they killed him in the prime of his youth and made our hearts bleed and tears flow, not because with this savage act they have brought further disgrace on the name of our country among the civilised nations of the world; but because through their crime we now follow thy footsteps more closely in the way of sacrifice. The terrible fire of this calamity burns up all selfishness and possessiveness in us; its flames reveals the depth of depravity and meanness and suspicion, the dimension of hatred and the measure of sinfulness in human nature; it makes obvious as never before our need to trust in God’s love as shown in the cross of Jesus and his resurrection; love which makes us free from hate towards our persecutors; love which brings patience, forbearance, courage, loyalty, humility, generosity, greatness of heart, love which more than ever deepens our trust in God’s final victory and his eternal designs for the Church and for the world; love which teaches us how to prepare ourselves to face our own day of death. O God, our sons blood has multiplied the fruit of the Spirit in the soil of our souls; so when his murderers stand before thee on the day of judgement remember the fruit of the Spirit by which they have enriched our lives. And forgive.