During the past few months, the Taliban has advanced in Afghanistan, once again taking control of many cities and urban areas. On Sunday, August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani retreated from the presidential palace and Taliban militants overtook Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. While this coup by the Taliban was expected, it happened far more abruptly than many had thought possible. Due to the Taliban’s historically extreme interpretation of Islamic law, those who have worked with the U.S. military, allied forces, or news agencies in Afghanistan fear retribution from the Taliban and have been desperate to get out of the country.
As soldiers and other service members redeploy to provide stability and security to the Kabul airport, chaplains will accompany them to provide valuable ministry among their troops. Chaplains also serve as first responders, welcoming refugees and immigrants into the U.S. at various military installations, providing ministry and helping to meet the needs of these incoming Afghan families. Among these chaplains are some of the 60 Alliance military chaplains who serve in every branch of the U.S. military. Alliance air force chaplains are ministering to crews on flights in and out of Kabul who are airlifting Afghan refugees as quickly as possible. Our chaplains on a senior level are also overseeing these missions from strategic and global perspectives.
Fort Lee, Virginia, is the first designated welcoming center for incoming Afghan families, many of whom served as translators and key support personnel to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan over these past two decades. Other welcome sites will likely include Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. So far, about 3,000 Afghans have transitioned through Fort Lee. It is suspected that the need will only increase with the rapid fall of Afghanistan and tens of thousands of refugees fleeing to places like Turkey.
Most of these Afghan families arrive with only what they can carry in several suitcases. This presents greater opportunities for chaplains to assist in humanitarian efforts and in religious and practical support. Aligning with historical precedent, chaplains will seek to coordinate with support agencies, international aid organizations, chapels, and churches as the U.S. State Department screens the Afghan interpreters and their families as part of an expedited visa process.
Amongst the agencies contacted is the C&MA’s Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA), along with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like The International Rescue Committee, which is already a primary NGO connected to the effort. These organizations can provide connections in the various states and cities where these Afghan families will be relocated, and these connections will provide significant support for the refugees.
Over the past several decades, U.S. Alliance churches have been heavily involved in helping immigrants and refugees resettle in U.S. communities. The expected influx of Afghan families to the U.S. in the coming year will open new opportunities to continue in these important works of ministry and outreach.
In times of global trouble, military chaplains step up to serve. Chaplains are essential not only in ministering to our military personnel but also in providing humanitarian aid. Now, with the abrupt withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, we are seeing a familiar trend—our chaplains are rising to the occasion by providing spiritual and practical support to incoming Afghans to the U.S. at Fort Lee, Virginia.
C&MA family, join us in lifting these concerns up in prayer:
- Pray for the ministry to the Afghan families. They feel deep gratitude to be safe with their families in the United States, but are experiencing heartache and worry over those left behind.
- Pray for our C&MA military chaplains to have wisdom and access to resources for viable support for these Afghan families.
- Pray that our churches and other U.S. assistance organizations have an increased awareness of this refugee influx and provide both a welcome and timely ministry to these families.
- Pray for peace as even now U.S. military service members continue to provide security and stability in Afghanistan. Chaplains are embedded in these units and need our prayers.
Photo courtesy of Mohammad Rahmani from Unsplash.