Sub-Dean - Revd Canon Michael Rawson
How appropriate are those words from the book of Exodus, the Lord ‘had seen the misery’ of the people and said to the rulers of the land, ‘Let my people go.’
We too have witnessed this week the misery of the people of Afghanistan as their country is once again overrun by the Taliban. Those desperate scenes at border crossings and at Kabul airport with parents handing their children to American troops could so easily by subtitled, ‘Let my people go’. It’s a truly horrific and shocking situation and it feels like the world has abandoned the Afghan people, leaving them to their fate at the hands of the Taliban.
I wonder how those people so fearful for their safety and future would respond to the words of the author of the letter to the Hebrews in our second reading: ‘Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account?’ Inspite of the assurances of those who have swept through the country over the past few weeks that the rights of women, girls and minorities will be upheld in the new regime it’s very hard to either believe their words or to imagine that they are ‘keeping watch over their souls.’ It feels like empty words on all sides, leaving the people with little hope or protection. It feels desperate
In a similar way it feels hard for those of us in Western countries who have abandoned the Afghans to their fate inspite of an eighteen month lead in time to feel that we should obey our leaders and submit to them. Over the past few decades, the slogan ‘Not in my name’ has been used by those protesting against government actions and it feels like an appropriate response today. When speaking about the body of Christ St Paul wrote that when one member suffers all members suffer. And the same should be true of the family of humanity. All people are made in the image and likeness of God; all are our sisters and brothers related to us through our common humanity. And so when the people of Afghanistan (and indeed any other part of the world) suffer, we share their suffering.
So what can we do and what should we do? I think that our second reading also holds the clues. Its author exhorts us to pray for our leaders that ‘they might act honourably in all things.’ We must continue to hold governments in our prayer and to hold our leaders to account in showing humanity to others. It is so easy for us to feel helpless in the face of such suffering and on this monumental scale. Furthermore we are told to have influence where we can, so we should not ‘neglect to do good and to share what we have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’ We can give our support to charities and those seeking to bring hope and healing to the Afghans and we can also continue to show kindness and care to our neighbours where we live, seeking to make a difference and transform the lives of others. In the coming months I have no doubt that there will be practical ways of supporting and protecting those arriving in this city, seeking asylum and refuge.
For the author of the letter to the Hebrews to be passive and do nothing was not an option. For the followers of Christ today, the same message is true.