I would like to start this article by quoting a friend of mine – Steve Neuhaus, who spent a short time in Afghanistan late in 2009 and early 2010. His role was to pastor the Australian military flock by, among other things, conducting services at the Ghan Chapel (photo above) with its cross of sacrifice.
He says “Afghanistan is one of the most beautiful, stark yet hostile countries I have ever been in, you could actually feel the oppressive presence of Satan and his legions in this part of the world.
“Over the last few thousand years this country has seen many empires come with mighty plans and leave with their tail between their legs, from Alexander the Great, to the British in the 1800s, Russians in the 1990s and over the last 20 years the Americans. It has seen the sacrifice of many lives and the damaging of others – spiritually, mentally and physically.
“This cross should remind all who visit The Ghan Chapel of the sacrifice made by Christ for us all; and the sacrifice our soldiers have made in that particular theatre. The ‘light’ behind the wooden cross was made from parts of Australian vehicles that had been destroyed by IEDs. This cross is currently located at the Kapooka Chapel.”
The speed of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has caught many by surprise, except God, the Creator of the universe. While the Taliban may be reveling in their newfound success, there are many in that country and around the world who are devastated and feel helpless.
As disciples of Christ, it is not up to us to cast blame. Of course, things could have been done differently, or anticipated better, but there is no value in going there. We need to stand in prayer right now, because God is not helpless.
Issues of governance
The Taliban have seized power and have announced that Afghanistan should again be called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as it was when the Taliban last ruled the country in the 1990s. But it has not yet formed a government and is facing the growing challenge of governing a changed nation.
Western countries are holding off from recognizing the Taliban as a legitimate government just yet. However, China has held open the possibility of international recognition, while calling on the Taliban to carry out its pledges to build an inclusive government and society and to prevent the operations of terrorist groups. (It is interesting that they don’t seem to consider Taliban as engaging in terrorism)
Other outsiders - including Pakistan, Russia and Turkey - will move to exploit opportunities and either defend or advance their strategic interests.
The US has suspended all arms sales to Afghanistan by issuing a notice to defense contractors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suspended Afghanistan's access to funds. The fund cited the “lack of clarity within the international community” over recognizing a government in Afghanistan.
The European Union is also suspending development aid “until we clarify the situation” with Taliban leaders. Germany has also suspended aid payments.
The harshness of the Taliban
In many areas where it was already difficult to be a Christian, Eternity News reports that the Taliban are demanding people’s phones. If they find a Bible app or anything Christian on the phones, they kill the owner. There is fear everywhere.
The Taliban leadership’s suggestion that the brutality that defined their rule two decades ago was a thing of the past has not always been matched by the actions of the foot soldiers on the street.
Yet The Australian Prayer Network reports the targeting of Christians in many atrocious ways!
The New York Times has described heart-wrenching stories of Afghans trying to flee in the face of the Taliban.
There has been a remarkable display of defiance, as protesters took to the streets to rally against Taliban rule for the second day on Thursday 19 August, Afghanistan’s Independence Day, this time marching in Kabul, including near the presidential palace. At one demonstration in the city, about 200 people had gathered before the Taliban broke it up violently, shooting into crowds and beating demonstrators.
Amnesty International says the Taliban were responsible for the torture and killing of several members of Afghanistan's Hazara ethnic minority last month.
The Taliban have cut cellphone services in many of the areas they've captured to prevent images from being published.
Imposition of Shariah Law
Shariah is a set of precepts interpreted in different ways across the Muslim world. When the Taliban say they are instituting Shariah law, that doesn’t mean they are doing so in ways that Islamic scholars or other Islamic authorities would agree with.
One of the greatest fears of the Taliban coming into power has to do with the freedom of women. In the past under Taliban, women were not allowed to work, drive, or get an education. Justice was dispensed differently for men and women.
Some have said that some of the Taliban restrictions on women under the guise of Islamic law actually went beyond the bounds of Shariah.
We need to pray
From the Australian Prayer Network:
· For the safety of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to flee to safer areas of the country or to surrounding countries like Pakistan and India.
· For the reopening of businesses and for humanitarian aid to be able to flow to the people needing help so that famine or other disasters can be averted.
· That the Afghan government and military will be able to stand unitedly and push back courageously and effectively against the Taliban and that even at this late stage the US and NATO governments would recommit to the defense of this strategically significant nation.
· Pray that the Taliban will have some human compassion for their new subjects and that many of them will have divine encounters to go “from Saul to Paul”.
Join me in praying Psalm 64 for Afghanistan!
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html