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The War in Afghanistan—More Questions than Answers

Should our armed forces be involved in this war? There is no unified response from the Christian community. But we can offer relief to those who are affected by it.

Recently, I attended a presentation by Lieutenant General Andy Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff for the Canadian Army. My attendance was born out of a number of invitations to discuss and develop a Christian dialogue or response to the current war in Afghanistan. The more I learn from those experienced, either in the military, relief organizations or people in government, the more I realize the overwhelmingly complexity of the issue.

It is difficult for those who are far removed from the situation to understand …

There is not a unified response from the Christian community. On the one hand, are the views of Christian pacifists. On the other hand are the views of Christians who would say that war is necessary, as long as it follows the principles of being a just war. Then of course, are all of the positions in between.

It is difficult for those who are far removed from the situation to understand the history, the culture, the internal influences and how the present and past external interventions have shaped the situation in Afghanistan. We certainly cannot get the information we need just from media clips, or listening to politicians during Question Period in the House of Commons. Without understanding, it is difficult for Canadians to assess our current involvement and what type of involvement is best and just.

At the meeting I attended some asked what success would look like. What are the countries of the world hoping to accomplish by being in Afghanistan. Lieutenant General Leslie paraphrased President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai's response: if things are a little bit safer, if there is a little bit more education, if there is a little bit more health services, a little bit more food for the people then the interventions and support in Afghanistan will have been a success.

One person remained patient throughout the evening and was the last to speak. A young man, an Afghan national, who has devoted the last ten years of his life in bringing developmental aid to Afghanistan.

"Do you know how many kids die each day in Afghanistan?" he asked. "600. In just the one city of Kabul, do you know how many widows there are?" he questioned. "40,000. And if each of those widows has one to three children, that is upwards to 150,000 people, in just one city, who are on the streets, who are destitute, who need hope and who need to be cared for." He then said, you can argue all you want on whether or not foreign armies should be helping out in Afghanistan—the one undeniable fact is that we all have resources here to help those who are desperately in need, if we choose to do so.

Widows and orphans. I can hear the Apostle James, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27 N.I.V.).

Should our armed forces be in Afghanistan? I have a feeling that this is a debate that will continue. However, we can address what can be done in offering relief and hope to the many innocent and vulnerable people affected by the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Within Afghanistan there are non-profit organizations that are working to bring development and aid to those in greatest need. As Christians, we have an opportunity to support these organizations through prayer and financial assistance. In addition to contacting your denomination's overseas missions, below is a list of some of the organizations that are involved in development work in Afghanistan. Their websites provide information about the work they are doing and how we can lend our support.

Christian relief organizations

MEDA Mennonite Economic Development Agency

World Vision

International Assistance Mission IAM

Douglas Cryer is the director of public policy for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.




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