Foundational Failure

09-05-2021Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Watching Vice President Harris travel to Hanoi, all the while our courageous service men and women are landing helicopters on top of the Embassy in Kabul as they try to evacuate people, I wondered if anyone in the Biden Administration thought about how bad those optics were? As was the case in Vietnam, while our service men and women acted honorably and bravely, our leadership did not.

After the attacks of 9/11, the US had a clear objective to go into Afghanistan to defeat Al Qaeda, who were allowed to operate out of that country. But after the defeat of Al Qaeda, President Bush never provided any clear rationale for a continued US presence in the country. But it went on for vague objectives of nation building, or creating a more Western type of society in Afghanistan. And now we are witnessing the collapse of what really is a house of cards.

Though it was noble of us to want the people of Afghanistan to get out from the clutches of the Taliban and to live in a society where all people are treated equally despite gender, race or tribe, Afghanistan never had the foundation to build such a civilization. To do that would require a foundation of Judeo- Christian Biblical values.

The values enshrined in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights were made possible by the values that both Judaism and Christianity infused into Western civilization. One of our society’s foundational values is built on the biblical idea that we are created in the image of God. Hence every human person is equal in dignity and worth. Over time as that idea permeated our society, it helped build a culture where human dignity was upheld in law and in practice. It eventually led to religious liberty, the demise of slavery, of racial segregation as well as the uplifting of women and the protection of children.

The Afghani’s never had that value built into their society. It’s why our efforts there met resistance as well as bewilderment and never took hold. We never explained to them why we value the things we do. Or why democracy is superior to theocracy. Nor were our troops there permitted to do so. Why did we build schools so girls could be educated? To us it makes sense, to them not so much. Why do we consider it gravely wrong to use young boys for sexual gratification for older men? Again, that is something (bacha bazi as it is called) that is part of their tribal way of life and yet our troops were forbidden to interfere with the practice, in fact we bribed them with load of ED medications.

Our society was built on the Bible. Even though today the Bible is ignored and even denigrated, we in the West are still living off of the fumes of what was once Christendom.

Without the foundation of Biblical principles, the nation building project in a place such as Afghanistan was always bound to fail. We built roads and bridges in a place where most people do not drive or own a vehicle. Roads and bridges that they have no way to maintain nor have a reason to maintain. We built hospitals and clinics based on our value that all the sick deserve care. That’s not a value the Taliban espouse. We installed a government with free elections, except the Taliban and other tribes don't believe in elections yet alone the right of women to vote. We created Courts and judges to provide for a balance between justice and revenge and where the rule of law could prevail. Their law is based on Sharia Law and they have no interest in Western concepts of due process, fairness or equal justice under the law. We helped them build an army but their allegiance was not to a government or a nation or the ideals enshrined in democracy but to a tribe, which is why once their military pay ceased, the Afghan army went right back to their tribe.

Some though, did start to want a different kind of society, one that is built on principles of human dignity and equality. Many of them became our allies and tried to re-create their land. Christianity had also started to spread, mostly underground. Catholic News Service reported that those Afghani’s asking for refugee status based on a religious persecution claim were being denied access to transport planes by the State Department. In the meantime, radio/TV personality Glen Beck said he raised $28 million and is sending in 20 planes to evacuate Christians, who will surely face death from the Taliban. India in the meantime agreed to take in those Sikhs and Hindus still in Afghanistan, though most of them had started to leave in March. What kind of courage is needed to be a Christian living under a radical Islamist rule? Those left behind will almost certainly face martyrdom.

Today, 90% of the Afghani’s have cell phones. We gave them that. What we did not give them is the very thing that could change their way of life for the better.

As Jesus told us so long ago, a wise man builds his house on solid rock so that when the storms and floods come, it will stand strong. But a fool builds his house on sand… We built on sand and the result is just as Jesus predicted. Love, Fr. John B.