It has been heart-wrenching this week to see Afghanistan fall into the hands of the Taliban, whose rule 20 years ago was replete with public executions for convicted murderers and adulterers, amputations for those guilty of theft and their huge array of human and cultural abuses.
Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Laureate and women’s rights activist who, as a child, was shot by the Taliban for defending her right to education has spoken of her deep concerns particularly for women and girls under the new regime. Her words that “this is an urgent humanitarian crisis” must be taken seriously.
As we look on at the unfolding tragedy, I am reminded of the prayer that an American Rabbi uttered at the height of the civil rights movement: “O Lord, we confess our sins, we are ashamed of the inadequacy of our anguish, of how faint and slight is our mercy. We are a generation that has lost its capacity for outrage. We must continue to remind ourselves that in a free society all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible.”
As the American and British Governments turn their backs on twenty years of involvement in the region, our first response as people of faith must be a call to action – of lobbying our leaders to help enable a safe passage of the most vulnerable and of course to support the welcoming of refugees into our communities. We should not be by-standers in the face of suffering.
With the Taliban in power once again and another instance of fundamentalist religion operating under the cloak of sanctity over the politics of hate, the second response is that we must call to account a literalist application of our sacred texts, and reject a version of any faith which claims a monopoly on truth. Rather should we walk tentatively, with humility and a journey of partnership with the Divine. This is the voice of faith, accompanied with doubt that needs to usher gently forth in a world so often filled with a cacophony of competing claims to the absolute truth.
Our response to the scenes that we have witnessed this week should be to stand up for justice, to champion a faith content with more questions than answers, and never to lose a sense of hope.
Philip Goldenberg, member of the Jewish faith
Date: Monday 23rd August 2021