In early December, as President Obama was announcing that he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Greg Mortenson was releasing his book Stones into Schools, a followup to his 2006 best-seller Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson has logged more months in remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan than almost any other Westerner.
Activist and author Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners magazine, noted sadly that 17,000 people had signed a petition to the White House in late November asking President Obama to lead a different kind of “surge” in Afghanistan that relied more on diplomacy and humanitarian assistance than on military escalation.
Saying that “we believe there is no path to military victory in Afghanistan,” at least 77 United Methodist bishops signed a letter sent November 10 to President Obama, saying they are praying he will withdraw American troops by the end of 2010.
Most Americans seem to have been persuaded by President Obama’s argument that Iraq was the wrong war to fight—and that the war in Afghanistan is the right one. The war in Afghanistan is seven years old and escalating, and the future is uncertain. Twenty-one thousand additional American troops have been committed, and some leaders are calling for more. It is time to ask: What is the U.S.
Lutherans, Jews, Muslims and others seeking to cling to their faith in a time of tragedy came together for a prayer vigil April 4 at Redeemer Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Binghamton, New York. The church is located a few blocks away from the American Civic Association, where 41-year-old Jiverly Wong shot and killed 13 people before taking his own life. Mi chele C.
Greg Mortenson grew up in Tanganyika, now Tanzania, the son of Lutheran missionaries. He says his parents wore their faith lightly, but from them he learned to appreciate people different from himself, to live simply and to care deeply about people who are impoverished.
At a center in Kabul for children affected by violence, a mother of one of the children cut through the niceties of the meeting—and the tradition of Afghan women being self-effacing—by declaring bitterly, “We hate this country and want to leave. There are no jobs here.” That angry declaration came amid growing concerns about Afghanistan’s insecurity and inadequate infrastructure.
With the release of 19 kidnapped Korean Christians taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the leader of the national church council in South Korea said that the traumatic, 40-day event may stimulate church debate in that nation on ways to plan safer and more effective missions.
As religious leaders around the world called for the release of South Korean church volunteers held hostage in Afghanistan, the head of the World Council of Churches visited in mid-August with families of the humanitarian workers caught up in the ongoing fight between the U.S.-backed government and the overthrown Taliban.
Speaking from St. Peter’s Basilica on Easter Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI offered a global survey of natural and human-made disasters, including military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and called on Christians to be “apostles of peace.”