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Giovanna’s blog on ‘Christian ministry in Afghanistan’ – Part 14

Hi there, Giovanna here (not my real name, for security reasons…)

Here is part 13 of my blog ‘A personal reflection on ‘serving in Afghanistan” – if you missed the earlier parts, here they are:

Afghanistan May 2022: What is happening now?

I feel like I am caught in a loop….nothing gets resolved! The issues which were issues regarding Afghanistan at the beginning of the year are still the issues!

Maybe it’s like in the film “Ground Hog Day”? Have you seen the film? The main character keeps reliving the same events. I feel like I am reliving what happened when I was in Afghanistan in the 1990s…as things unfold following the same pattern. For example, this week the Taliban issued rules that Afghan women should be fully covered except their eyes and should not leave their homes unless it is urgent though there is no definition of “urgent” given.

I well remember my female Afghan friends in 1996/97 being terrified of going out in case they were stopped by the Taliban and maybe hit or threatened. Sometimes they couldn’t afford a burka each but had to share so if several females in the family had to go out at once some had to run the risk of not being “properly covered”. I remember a female Afghan colleague (women were then,
as now, allowed to work in health and education) being late for a meeting and running in the street and being stopped because running was considered unladylike.

Later women were criticized for having “clicking heels” …somehow the male Taliban believed it would draw them into temptation. 

The more you cover up the more is left to the imagination I guess! The more women are covered the more some men lust for what might be unavailable to them. Wasn’t British Victorian society so moral on the surface but often a cess pit beneath? Consider the Puritan society in Britain under Oliver Cromwell! They ended up banning Christmas as they became more and more narrow. This year the Taliban allowed the celebration of Eid a few weeks ago at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan but if the 1990s pattern continues they will eventually ban that as un-Islamic. The Puritans also predominantly wore black and banned the theatre and what they perceived as frivolity in the same way the Taliban have banned music and dancing even at weddings. People are currently stopped and can be beaten if they have music on their phones or at minimum shouted at. All that is on the TV are news and Islamic programmes.

The treatment of women will become more and more severe as women are seen as the source of temptation for men. It is considered to be up to the woman to be “modest” to avoid men falling into temptation. There is not the concept of the man controlling his thoughts and being responsible.

I remember in 1997 three women being arrested and convicted and strangled with their own chadors (shawls) then their bodies thrown in the river. Their children waited at home not knowing what had happened. These were not bad women. They were widows and had no source of income. In their poverty they turned to prostitution to feed their hungry children. With no welfare state they would have died otherwise so their mothers did the only thing left to them…and paid for it…not of course the men (even some Taliban) who used them!

Since March the Taliban have been consolidating their power particularly by doing many house to house searches. These continue. They are looking for anyone who might undermine the current government by working against them: particularly higher level people from the former government; Islamic State; people stock piling weapons etc. Searches are systematic area by area often. Some have been done sensitively and well, those involved recognising that most homes do not harbour such people. But some have been done aggressively and without consideration for the people involved. Basically it depends on the particular Taliban men on the ground in each time and place.

Often Afghans believe they are in danger through these searches (believers and those who worked/work for NGOs) but actually they are not (unless someone has personally reported them) so pray for the fear they feel to diminish. Pray they will be able to find real rest in God from day to day.

Many continue to be hungry and food distributions are ongoing but the international money going into the country does not match what Afghanistan received previously. The US released monies committed to Afghanistan which it had frozen when the Taliban took over. However it has kept back half of that money to compensate 9/11 victims. The average Afghan on the street, many of whom are going hungry, is not responsible for that yet suffers as a consequence Food is given for one to two months but after 2 months the situation is unchanged so what do people do? Pray the hopelessness people feel will create an environment where people will be more receptive to knowing that Jesus is more than a prophet. Pray God will protect and provide for believers. Praise we have been able to support some believing out of work families for basic needs. We don’t want them to become dependent but these times are extra-ordinary. Many professionals are also out of work with the closure of embassies and many foreign run agencies.

Pray for the UK government to initiate the Afghan Resettlement Scheme through UNHCR as it promised.  My 3 Afghan friends and their families are still waiting in Pakistan with no income and struggling daily vainly hoping to get accepted somewhere.  Two are ladies who have worked all their lives for the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled.  Now they are reduced to nothing…no status, no influence, no realistic human hope.  How to effectively share our hope in Jesus with them?

 

This is a very sad time for the Afghan people. Truly also for the Ukrainians, the Yemenis and many others across the world. I am grateful for our own security and economic prosperity. We may have higher gas and electricity bills and prices are rising weekly. We may have our personal financial struggles relative to our own situation but nothing can be compared to how Afghans and others are suffering. We have more than enough! Lord help us to be thankful.

Giovanna

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