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Forced displacement of people is a huge global crisis. According to UNHCR estimates, the number of displaced people worldwide is around 82.4 million. With 3.5 million refugees, Afghans make up one of the largest refugee populations. Their sordid saga tells a generational story of conflict, violence and poverty. 

The fall of Kabul

The sudden withdrawal of American troops and the subsequent fall of Kabul has triggered yet another refugee crisis. How the well-trained Afghan army wilted under the pressure of an imminent Taliban offensive is beyond understanding. 

Strangely, the Afghan Government simply gave up Kabul without a fight. Such an end-game scenario was least expected. Nevertheless, the victory was a big moment for the Taliban.  

The Return of the Reign of Terror

Brute force, strict adherence to religious codes, and intolerance to genuine debates characterise the Taliban. As a result, their takeover is seen as the return of terror, despite assurances to the contrary. So, have the Taliban become less mild today? Most people are unwilling to accept such a change. Today, no one seriously doubts that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is an unsafe place to live.

Read Also: The dangers facing Afghan Christians inside their country and escaping from it

Why are people fleeing Afghanistan?

For decades, the Afghan people have suffered unspeakable hate, intolerance, and prejudice. Specifically, women, girl-children and religious minorities are paralysed by fear. Their harrowing experiences have roots in personal tragedy. Not surprisingly, most Afghans want to escape the Taliban. 

Where can these hapless refugees go to feel safe, find food, and rebuild their lives? Relocations, however, have not been easy. My heart wrenched at the TV images of desperate Afghans wanting to flee the country, even if it means dangerously holding on to the wheels of an aircraft flying out of Kabul airport. 

Terrified families are frantically seeking safe passage. But, unfortunately, there are fewer avenues of escape available. And if you were lucky to head out to refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan, they are already insanely overcrowded. So getting out still remains an arduous task. Most Afghans face a grim future devoid of hope. 

Read Also: Sharia, apostasy and the Taliban

Biblical teaching on showing love to Strangers

The Bible encourages us to show love and kindness to strangers. Texts in the Old Testament exhorts us to love “strangers” in our midst (Deut 10:19) and be accommodative (Lev. 19:34; Deut. 27:19; Eze 47:22; Zech. 7:9-10) of them. We are to offer food security, provide a safety net, and ensure justice. 

Hospitality towards strangers is not exclusive to the Old Testament. In the Gospels, Jesus wanted us to ‘love our neighbour’ (Luke 10:27) and even reminded us that even little acts of kindness to “the least of the brethren” is service to God (Matt. 25:40).  Further, the book of Hebrews asks us to extend hospitality to strangers (Heb. 13:2). 

Read Also: Heavenly messengers

I also find Grody‘s use of three Christian themes: a) the Imago Dei (the Image of God), b) the Verbum Dei (the Word of God), and c) the Missio Dei (the Mission of God) to throw light on the issues that touch directly on the migration debate.

For Grody, the Imago Dei insists that we see immigrants not as problems to be solved but people to be healed and empowered. Secondly, Jesus as the ‘One who migrates into our world’ and ‘a refugee himself’ fleeing political persecution (Matt 2:13-15) can give hope to those who suffer injustice, separation, uprootedness, and perhaps even painful death. Thirdly, the Church’s mission is to cross the human-human divide just as God crossed over the divine-human divide through His incarnation.

If one member suffers, all suffer together 

Agreed, we must love and be kind towards the strangers in our midst. However, my heart goes out for Afghan Christians, who are sure to face death. The resilience of the suffering Afghan Christians is now stretched beyond the limit. While we are generally concerned about the Afghan refugee situation, we should feel the pain and suffering of our Afghani Christian brothers and sisters. 

Did not Apostle Paul write of our connectedness as people baptised into one body? St. Paul points, “if one member suffers, all suffer together”(I Cor. 12:25 – 26). Therefore, we need to care for one another, for we are members of the same body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13; 25 – 26). Further, in his epistle to the Romans, he exhorts believers to specifically “contribute to the needs of the Saints” (Rom. 12:13). 

What Next?

I can’t imagine what will happen next. Afghans are sinking deep into the quagmire of hopelessness. Worse, Afghan Christians face death along with violence, starvation and poverty.  As Afghan Christians face the threat of death, Christians worldwide need to feel closest to the Afghan Church in Spirit. 

I think we must be genuinely concerned about our brothers and sisters, eager to pray for the comfort and safety of the brethren and be willing to do whatever it takes to relieve the suffering. Hopefully, some of us can work alongside those who turn the spotlight on the issue.

Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.