Hillary Watson is a full-time Mennonite pastor at Lombard Mennonite Church in suburban Chicago. She blogs at Gathering the Stones, where this post first appeared. It is reprinted with […]
What does the word “Afghanistan” conjure up in your mind? More young Americans maimed and killed? Much-needed funds for here at home instead of going for ammunition, vehicles, support services to fight yet again? Fractured, traumatized families due to separation?
Widespread disruption of the norm for the people of this impoverished country?
According to Hightower Lowdown (February): “Poverty—about 70 percent of Afghans (attempt) to live on less than $2 per day. The national literacy rate is at 28 percent.” These people need help. “A life expectancy of only 45 years and the world’s highest infant mortality rate.” These people need what is now largely nonexistent—expanded and greatly improved health care. “Afghanistan has no substantial industry and little economic development. Subsistence farming is the only occupation for most of the population. Sadly, the country’s most marketable product is opium—92 percent of the world’s supply comes from the poppies raised on this hardscrabble land.” How tragic that these impoverished people seem to have few options to sustain themselves and their families!
Seventy-five percent of the population lives in small villages (less than 300 residents in each). The mountainous terrain becomes forbidding and a great trial for farming and travel. Even in the capital there is inadequate electric power. Roads are nonexistent or poor, making all travel, including military, a challenge. “The weather can be brutal.” These people need great humanitarian effort from those of us who have it so good, not more bombing, killing and desecration of this fragile land.
The Fresno Bee (March 2) offers the following glimmer of goodness: an effort of U.S. troops in Afghanistan under the leadership of Army Captain Matthew Crowe. He is to fulfill “the Obama administration’s plan to end the Taliban insurgency in part by delivering on unfulfilled U.S. vows to lift ordinary Afghans out of the crush of poverty and illiteracy.” Crowe says dealing with the locals is the most important thing he does. “Blowing stuff up doesn’t have the same effect as what I do in town by helping the locals,” says Crowe. “Some current basic proposals include building a $684,000 system to provide clean water, improve sanitation and contribute $2 million for badly needed construction equipment.”
Abdul Ebrahimi, mayor of Maydan Shahr, has stated goals of improving public transportation and building a covered gym to supplement a soccer field and basketball courts. “The United States hopes that by being partners with officials like Ebrahimi across the country, popular faith can be restored in local authorities.”
Other humanitarian agencies are working at showing friendship and care for the Afghan people. In the winter of 1995, Mennonite Central Committee shipped 25,000 metric tons of wheat, lentils and oil to alleviate food shortages for those most effected. At the present time, using an annual budget of more than $500,000, MCC is supporting five schools, working with a partner agency, International Help The Afghan Children. MCC is also supplying peace education curriculum in seven additional schools and supporting an eye treatment hospital in Southern Afghanistan.
“Merely putting more troops in Afghanistan to do more of what the Bush administration did will not produce better results,” says the article. “Indeed, without a fundamental shift in policy, things could go badly for the Obama administration in Afghanistan.”
The fallacy of war: Dwight David Eisenhower, possibly the U.S. president with the strongest military background, stated in 1946: “I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived it can, as only one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” That was 63 years ago. Have we learned anything? If war was effective, if war worked, there would be no need for it. As Andy Rooney said on 60 Minutes (March 8): “War is civilization at its worst.’
Many of us profess to follow God’s laws and Christ’s teachings. Jesus was the one who radically changed thinking and behaviors and will do so today. He created the human heart and can cause hearts to soften and change. After all, we know in our hearts that love is the answer.
Ethel K. Harder is a retired educator in Reedley, Calif.
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