In the last couple of weeks, the news has been dominated by the hostile takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. The images that have surfaced as the situation unfolds has been distressing. Thousands are flocking to Kabul airport in the hope of fleeing the country, women and children are locking themselves in their homes and fatal casualties have occurred due to Taliban violence; the scenes are nothing short of horrific. There is much discussion as to whether the US government made the right decision of withdrawing their troops. Additionally, there is a long history of tension between those pro- and anti-Taliban within Afghanistan. The complexity of this historical tension and its present out-workings are beyond the scope of this article. However, we do not need an in-depth understanding of the circumstances to clothe our hearts with compassion. Image bearers are currently in a position where they are helpless and at the mercy of terrorists. How will we respond?
War Against Indifference
In this age of social media, we are likely to encounter more information than ever before. World events that will not make mainstream news we encounter by scrolling through our Twitter feed. Having access to so much information can be helpful because it enables us to engage with people and communities, we would otherwise be ignorant of. Having access to so much information can be harmful because our initial concern can descend into indifference. If a photo or video becomes too distressing, we can just close the page and move on, forgetting that we saw such horrific scenes. Now, whilst I am not encouraging endless absorption of traumatic content, I would like to alert us to the danger of indifference. When we do encounter these traumatic events, what do we think? Do we see the sufferers (and the perpetrators) as image-bearers (Genesis 1:26)? Or is it simply none of my business? Are we plagued with individualism, the endemic pervasive within contemporary culture? I would like to cast our minds to the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Three men saw a man in need. Two of the men responded to the need with indifference, The other responded with compassion (Luke 10:31-33). Which one are we? When we see the images that surface from the scenes in Afghanistan, how do we respond – with indifference or compassion?
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What Can I Do?
There are 3,545 miles between the UK and Afghanistan. Even those most passionate about social justice can feel increasingly powerless to create change. Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are some suggestions as to what Christians can do to support those in need.
1. Develop good theology on the Imago Dei. This might seem like a strange way to start, but it is arguably the most important step to take. Every single human that has ever been created has been made in the image of God, to reflect and behold the glory of God. So, wicked acts against humans ultimately declare the heart of the person towards God. Since humans are the crowning point of creation, to destroy or diminish what God created is to say I hate God and His glory. To be indifferent towards the crowning point of creation is to say I don’t care about God or His glory. Is this you?
2. Pray. You may not have the resources to help refugees escape from Afghanistan, but you can pray. Prayer is the means by which God providentially acts within the affairs of humans. In Luke 18, a widow pleaded incessantly to a wicked judge to grant her justice against her enemy. She pleaded until the judge gave in. If consistent pleading can change the heart of a wicked judge, what will the consistent pleading of the righteous cause a virtuous Judge to do?
3. Give. Where our treasure is there our hearts are also (Matthew 6:21). Whilst praying is paramount, it can be used as a copout. What we give our money to, usually indicates who our god is. Find reputable charities or churches that are doing ‘on the ground’ work to support the refugees fleeing the country or the residents remaining in Afghanistan.
4. Lament. Indifference doesn’t always come from a lack of care externally but also from a lack of care internally. Consuming significant amounts of traumatic content without processing the information is not good for our soul. We have emotions not to control us but to direct us to the One who can help us make sense of all the noise. Lament says instead of being angry about God, I will take my anger to God, allow Him to comfort me and finally lead me on the path to hope. If you need to lament, spend some time in the Psalms. It will do your soul much good.
There is so much wickedness in this world and at times it can be overwhelming. Whilst we may be overwhelmed, we will overcome. Victory is ours through Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14). Sin and Satan will not get the last laugh. Whilst we await that final victory, let us not meander our way to the finish line. We have too much hope to be indifferent.