The news from Afghanistan is daunting. Millions of lives are in peril. Christians are threatened by persecution. Women and girls risk losing their access to education, work, and other fundamental rights and freedoms. The Afghan people are leaving their country in droves, fleeing their homeland as quickly as they can. Many others are unable to leave. Countless lives are caught in the balance. The future is uncertain and the present is grim.
What can we do in the face of such a tragic situation?
Being so many thousands of kilometres away, what good can we do?
The situation becomes much more vivid when we see the faces of Afghans in distress. We imagine the families that will be separated, the loved ones whose lives will be threatened, innocent men and women who will be persecuted, imprisoned, and worse…
Where is God in all of this?
In such dire situations it can be difficult to see where God is. God is in Afghanistan
. God is with every man, woman, and child whose life is in danger. God cries over the suffering and hardship that ordinary people endure. God calls us to see him in the faces of those in need. Jesus is present in those who suffer. He was forced to flee his homeland as a refugee, to escape the tyranny of Herod. He suffered unjust persecution at the hands of religious fanatics. He was put to death by a violent, bloodthirsty regime.
Yes, Jesus is in Afghanistan today.
What can we do to love him in the people of Afghanistan?
May God listen to the cry of the Afghan people and open our hearts to stand with them in a spirit of solidarity and welcome. Holy Family, you who knew persecution and fled your home country, pray for those whose lives are in danger. Jesus, help us to love you in those who are suffering.
- The first thing we can do is pray. We can put ourselves in spiritual solidarity with the suffering of the Afghan people. We can lift up our work, our struggles, our prayers as an act of love for them. We can offer the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or our intentions at daily Mass. We can pray for them with our family and friends. Who knows how God will use our prayers to come to their aid in this time of dire need?
- Next, we can be informed about what the people of Afghanistan are going through. Amidst the 24-hour news cycle, we can gradually become indifferent or complacent, hearing statistics without really listening to people’s real stories and seeing their faces. Instead, we can strive to take an interest, dig a bit deeper, and let ourselves be touched by the realities that people are experiencing. This applies to all the various situations of suffering throughout our world. The goal is not to be overwhelmed with bad news but rather to understand the situations people face and we what we can do to help. How do we open our hearts to care about what people are going through around the world, getting to know their stories, names, and faces?
- Finally, we can welcome them. Jesus said: “I was a foreigner and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). Whatever we do to welcome Afghan refugees is an act of love towards Christ, who is hidden in those in need. In the weeks and months to come, as the people of Afghanistan come knocking on the doors of our home countries, we must find ways of extending a warm welcome. As Saint Benedict told his monks: those who present themselves at the door of the monastery are to be welcomed as Christ. What can we do in our parishes, in our families, in our personal and professional circles to extend a fraternal welcome to those in need? Even if no refugees arrive in the immediate vicinity where we live, what can we do to support those who are welcoming them more directly? What kind of welcome would we hope to receive if we were in their shoes?
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Paparella is a theology student at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies in Rome. Born and raised in London, Ontario, he has worked in pastoral ministry in Montreal and Paris, especially with young people. Julian strives to communicate our faith in a way that resonates with everyday life, helping people to better experience God today. He is married to Marion.