By Laurence Butt
Imagine for a moment, if you will, there is a politician, a soldier, and a civilian in a bar. I know this sounds like the start of a joke but stay with me for a moment. If you ask them why the US, and by extension NATO, was in Afghanistan, chances are they will give you a completely different answer. A politician would say that it is America’s duty as a powerful country to defeat evil and help create democracy in the region. A soldier would say it is his duty to defeat all enemies of the United States. A civilian might be confused and frustrated that his government is spending billions in some far away country when his own isn’t in order. The truth is, no one knows why we were there. But one thing the United States did bring to Afghanistan, at least for a time, was the belief that men and women are equal, and should be able to hold jobs, enjoy books, and go to school without persecution.
On the outside, it seemed like most people agreed with that, but under the surface, those values opposed a culture thousands of years older than ours. In the twenty-odd tumultuous years that NATO and the Afghan Western-aligned government were in power, a generation of girls grew up attending school, reading and writing, attending public events and not having to wear a burqa.
Then the Taliban came back, supported by newer Soviet weapons and captured American equipment. Smelling the instability and corruption of the Afghan government, they launched their country-wide offensive, intending to finally reclaim the country that they claimed and argued was always theirs. It took only six months from the first battle to the chaotic airport evacuation in Kabul for them to succeed in their task. But the Taliban claimed they had learned their lesson and life would be different.
From a Biblical perspective, respecting the local culture and religious beliefs in Afghanistan while also trying to uphold and advocate for women’s rights while upholding the inherent dignity and worth of the individual can be difficult.
“It is one thing to be respectful and to respect the sovereignty of a people, it is another thing entirely to recognize and tacitly support the Taliban” Duerr said. “Therefore, the Taliban’s approach to women’s rights, or lack thereof, must be heavily condemned. In order to uphold the dignity and worth of every person, the Taliban should rightly be shunned.”
He noted that from the view of the international community, the Taliban has reversed many rights and brought Afghanistan back in line with very conservative views.
From the view of the international community, the Taliban have returned Afghanistan to a pariah state. Under the Taliban, women have essentially lost all rights. Women have lost their jobs, girls are restricted from going to school, and neither girls nor women can even go outside without a familial male accompanying them, let alone drive or attend social events. Duerr emphasizes that a specific view is only held by the Taliban and not by the general Islamic population.
“Many people in Afghanistan in the past 20 years, from a cultural standpoint, were fine with the advancements of women,” said Duerr. “So, this issue is much less about culture, and very much about the brutal form of Islam purported by the Taliban, to which most Muslims around the world disagree.”
According to Duerr, advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan should matter to believers because this was something Christ modeled in his life here on earth.
“Jesus did much to raise the status of women in the Roman Empire–in fact, the resurrection account first hinges upon the testimony of two women” Duerr said. “As such, as Christians and people outside of Afghanistan, we should strongly condemn the policies of the Taliban.”
Addressing injustice in Afghanistan and deciding the methods the United States should adopt is a contentious issue. While engaging directly with those responsible for this injustice might assist in rectifying certain wrongs, engaging directly with the Taliban could pose risks and inadvertently sustain ongoing issues.
“The Taliban government is notably oppressive, not only towards women but also of Christians.” Kim said. “However, all religions are fundamentally peace-loving at their core.
What often distorts the goodness of religions is predominantly politics, or competition over resources, including economic and political powers. Perceived or real injustice begets further injustice.”
She further emphasized that we are living in a fallen world and since we do, global peace and harmony will not be achieved until the coming of Christ. She also noted that Christians and specifically students can get involved in many advocacy groups such as Interfaith America, World Council of Religions for Peace, Parliament of the World’s Religions, and United Religions Initiative.
“Some relevant biblical principles” Kim said, “include Mark 12:31 (Love your neighbor), Isaiah 1:17 (Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, etc.), Genesis 1:27 (the inherent dignity of every person created in the image of God), Matthew 5:9 (call to be peacemakers).”
In response to challenging circumstances, Christians believe that to solve the issue, they must come together in prayer, compassion, and meaningful engagement. Christians draw inspiration from the teachings of Christ, who emphasized love, justice, and dignity for everyone. By engaging in advocacy efforts, extending support to organizations assisting Afghan women, and offering heartfelt prayers, Christians can serve as sources of hope.
Laurence Butt is a junior IT Management major and an Off Campus Reporter for Cedars. When he’s not writing articles, he enjoys hanging out with friends, spending time outdoors, and trying to be good at video games.
Photo from International Crisis Group