After two major earthquakes struck Afghanistan in a matter of days, the country’s Catholic Relief Services representative outlined three focuses of the organization’s current response: the safety and well-being of the CRS staff on the ground, providing immediate support to those who are displaced, and finishing an assessment of damage from the second earthquake.
When asked to assess religious freedom worldwide compared to a decade ago, Edward Clancy, the director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need, doesn’t hesitate with his answer.
The Catholic Church has been involved with refugee resettlement in an organized way ever since World War II, when millions of displaced people in Europe were resettled in various countries.
All five of the new countries that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the State Department designate as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) have experienced Christian persecution in the past year.
Just as Afghani girls were ready to return to school for the first time in seven months on March 23, the Taliban — which seized ruling power in Afghanistan last summer — that morning reversed its decision to reopen girls’ secondary schools, citing a need for more time to draw up policies in line with the Islamic law Sharia.
Last month, as Rozita Gerhardt helped Afghan refugees complete their asylum applications, she thought of her mother, who years ago fled Iran, and how this was just the first step of what will be a lifelong process.
Although the United States left Afghanistan at the end of August, it left behind thousands still affected by the resulting turmoil.
Evacuated in August as the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, the head of the now-interrupted Catholic mission said this is a time of “advent,” waiting for God to reveal how the church can be present in the country again.
Standing in front of Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis called on members of all the world’s religions to be courageous enough to set aside self-centeredness and instead live with true and active compassion for the victims of war and poverty and for the earth.
When Pary Gul, a Christian woman from Afghanistan, met Pope Francis Sept. 22, she gave him her wedding ring as a reminder of her husband, who has disappeared and may be dead.