Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sticking With Afghanistan, Not Getting Stuck

This week's On Faith question:

Q-- Eight years after the U.S. attacked Afghanistan, fighting continues. Religious extremists in the Taliban and al-Qaeda retain significant power there. What is our moral responsibility to the people of Afghanistan? If religion is part of the problem there, how can it be part of the solution?

We as religious individuals can begin by saying: “we cannot fix this situation by ourselves.” We must look for support from those who are like us, those who are different from us, and finally, to God.

As Americans, we are taught early on that we are powerful. So powerful in fact that we are to help those who are less powerful, even if they are thousands of miles away from us. This is evident in our involvement with Vietnam, Bosnia, and Somalia, just to name a few. We seem poised and ready for any situation that necessitates our armed forces. And then we appear silent when tsunamis, earthquakes, and other natural disasters rear their ugly heads. And this is because we cannot put a face to our enemy. It’s easier to shake our fists at each other than at God.

The situation in Afghanistan is one that has allowed the U.S. to swoop in with our bandaids of war and weaponry, but unfortunately, that bandaid will soon weather and fall off. The Afghani people need help surviving, not fighting.

As religious people, we must acknowledge this primary need of survival, and respond accordingly with something that sticks. We must find allies in our own traditions of faith and work together to educate the Afghani people to stand on their own, not rely on the U.S. for all their needs. We must reach out across religious divisions and realize that those differences and the silences surrounding them are partially what has brought us to where we are. We must work together to find a common voice of compassion for the people of Afghanistan, rather than claim that religious conversion is the only option for us in that country.

And finally, we must turn to God. We must realize that this situation is one that needs prayer and the understanding that we are not powerful enough as individuals to solve this problem. This is not to say that we place this situation in God’s hands and then continue on our merry ways, but rather that we stop claiming that we have the right answer and that everyone else is wrong. Once we realize this fact, we will also realize the power in our humble humanity to connect with others working towards the common well-being for a people who are inherently good, not evil. Maybe that will stick.


SpiritSong said...

I absolutely agree that religious "conversion" cannot be the motivator for a presence in this or any other country. That whole think reminds me too much of the Crusades. That image keeps coming to mind as I try to educate myself more on the historical background of the area.

I'm not sure that I agree that we, as a nation, are taught that we are powerful. That may have been true once, but I think we have a lot of people here who feel powerless in the face of poverty, abuse, addiction... Just a thought.

And I absolutely agree that we need to begin understanding that the people of Afghanistan are not "evil". Good thoughts!

Rachel W. said...

Thanks for your comments! I totally agree that I took on the persona of white privilege when I was speaking on power. Great point. I'll take that into consideration next time. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

What country has responded to natural disasters with more robust humanitarian aid than your own country?

Who in our government or society has ever called the Afghan people "evil?"

And is a Lutheran seminary now teaching that human beings are inherently good?

Still Your friend for life, Martin

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