Where are the cries of lament, the tears of grief for our sisters and brothers in pain?
Soon we will reach the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the invasion of Afghanistan. It is difficult to recall why the United Nations agreed to permit the invasion of this country. And our teas do not flow.
The impact of the crude bombing of the Trade Centre in September of 9/11 (as we have come to know it) and the images of people falling to their deaths is hard not to recall. These images have burned themselves into our memories. It led to the ‘shock and awe’ of Iraq, when the night skies lit up with explosions. And, on the view that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, it led to the UN sponsored invasion.
For the Afghani people, of course, it is not simply the 10th year of war. They have had to contend with the Russian Invasion, the presence of the British, and so on, back over long decades, if not centuries.
I am a member of Pax Christi in Victoria. We have been asking in our discussions why church leaders and church congregations are so silent. Perhaps they have accepted the view that if the foreign troops leave, there will be chaos – isn’t there chaos of a sort there already? Perhaps they ask, how will women and girls be treated? At present, they have to struggle to eke out a living, and are wounded and killed as part of the ‘unintended’ casualties of the war. Last Sunday (19th June) it was World Afghanistan Day. Who knew that? At a forum organised by Pax Christi more than one panel member (3 of the 4 have been to Afghanistan recently) say that many of the Afghani people they met are asking the foreign troops to leave, so they can then sort things out among themselves.
Where are the churches in all this? Where are the prayers of lament at the continuing deaths?
We are now seeing, all too often, flag-draped coffins brought back onto Australian soil. The soldiers, the officers and the politicians look suitably grave. And insist we must stay. The grief of bereaved families is mostly hidden from view. The post-traumatic stress buried in the minds and bodies of soldiers is hidden. The dead of Afghanistan are hidden.
Dare we ask: are we silent because the population of Afghanistan is Muslim? Is our attitude to the people in boats (many also Afghanis fleeing the war) because these too are Muslim? Do we remember the heated debates over the Vietnamese people whoa arrived in boats 30 or forty years ago? Then, at least, we admitted we had a part in their ocean escape, we were at war on their land.
Let the lament break forth. The cries of pain and grief be not silenced. The hearts of stone be turned to hearts of flesh! Let lament of Jesus over Jerusalem prompt our lament for every city overshadowed by the pain and grief of war. May his broken heart and his tears become the river of new life, where his peace feeds the poor and the broken with gracious justice.