Hidden Believers

Flag of Afghanistan

We could not let this weekend’s newsletter slip by without mention of the horrendous plight and suffering  of the people of Afghanistan.  The pictures of Afghans so desperate to flee their homeland by grabbing onto military planes as they took off, only then to fall onto the ground, was unbearable to behold.

What has largely been viewed as a military operation has now become a humanitarian mission but the outlet gates have now been sealed and our fellow brothers and sisters who are left behind now have little option but to hide and accept their fate.  Our media reports mostly about the efforts of the US and UK in evacuating people but actually there are 45 nations which were actively working to rescue Afghans alongside their own nationals.

The media has also largely underreported the work of the church.  99 percent of Afghanistan’s 33 million people are Muslim (with the divisions among them a major part of the story, as in many religions) but this doesn’t mean that Christians — and Catholics in particular — don’t exist there despite the threat of violence and death for professing the Christian faith.  There is a single Catholic Church, located in the Italian embassy in Kabul, with the Catholic community made up largely of priests, nuns and aid workers. Many of them are Italians who have done mostly anonymous work for years and many Afghans have secretly converted to Catholicism, having been dubbed “cristiani nascosti” (“hidden believers” in English).

Catholics have been instrumental in helping many Afghans during the military operation without ever infringing on their Islamic beliefs. We are all Sons and Daughters of God, whatever religion we have. These men and women continue to help the poor with aid from charitable donations from the West.  If you would like to help refugees who have fled with nothing or those still trapped, you could donate through these Christian organisations:  https://cafod.org.uk/  or  https://www.worldvision.org.uk/ who still bravely have staff on the ground in Afghanistan.

The Chair of our Bishops’ Conference ( International Affairs) has urged Catholics to pray for the people of Afghanistan, while pointing to the work of humanitarian organisations, and efforts to welcome refugees, as signs of hope.  Bishop Declan Lang said:

As Christians, we are called to be people of hope, even when a situation may appear hopeless.  Today our hope can be placed in those who are working tirelessly for dialogue, justice, and peace in their country.  Our hope can be placed in the humanitarian organisations that are continuing to offer their assistance, and the efforts to welcome and protect refugees fleeing their homes.  Above all we place our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we pray in the knowledge that he will never abandon the people of Afghanistan.

Last Wednesday Pope Francis called for dialogue in the country:   “I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue. Only thus can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.”

Almighty God, in our distress and grief
help us to remember that you love us.
We do not understand why this great disaster
has happened but help us to trust you.

Loving Lord,
for those who have died, give them eternal rest;
for those who are bereaved, comfort and console them;
for those who are hurt, heal and strengthen them.
Lord God, enable us to help our suffering brothers
and sisters in whatever way we can.

Heavenly Father be with us now and always.  Amen.