It is no surprise that the war in Afghanistan is high on the list of issues of highest concern this week. Many of us are waiting for the President's announcement of the way in which his administration will work to end this war. The war continues, with our support of a shaky, limited and corrupt government and unclear endgames, and with mounting casualties from various armed forces in the conflict.
What do the churches have to say about this conflict? What might they say given a new set of directives in the coming weeks?
Adrian Hall reporting for Religious Intelligence writes about one church officer's response. The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Bishop Peter Price, has addressed the House of Lords voicing his belief that our engagement in Afghanistan requires much more than further troop assignments.
Hall writes, "Bishop Peter Price ... called for “a humanitarian and development surge” in the country. In a debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s speech, Bishop Price said there had been talk in some quarters of a withdrawal but he did not think “we can simply pack up and come home”.
He told the Lords: “Unless we have been misled, there is a legitimate need to seek to protect from further acts of terrorism, but there is also a need to ensure that the welfare and safety of Afghan women and girls are protected from the Taliban, the necessity of basic health and welfare services, and the education of some 6 million children.”
Bishop Price is one of the most intelligent and resourceful bishops in England and a thoughtful pastor. His comments on a matter almost entirely forgotten by church leaders (at least so far) is most welcome.
The question is, when the grand plan for continued operations in Afghanistan are put forward, who will speak up or out?
Here in the little town of Lewes by the great water, where for 4 1/2 years a group of us stood week by week in silent vigil remembering the human cost of the war in Iraq, a new group is forming up. Last week three people appeared on the protest corner, protesting the human costs of the continuing and perhaps changing operations in Afghanistan. It is time to find voice again.