Peace in Afghanistan
The United Methodist Social Principles recognize that "Conflicts and war impoverish the population on all sides, and an important way to support the poor will be to work for peaceful solutions." (Para. 163E)
"Just governance thrives not on wars and rumors of wars, but in the advancement of a world order that protects human rights, develops sustainable communities, cultivates a culture of peace, empowers people and their associations, and promotes a just and participatory democracy." (Resolution No. 309: "Globalization and its Impact on Human Dignity and Human Rights," The United Methodist Book of Resolutions, 2004)
In this season of Advent, as we prepare to welcome the Prince of Peace, the nation is responding to the announcement by President Obama that the Administration will increase US troop presence in Afghanistan by 30,000 and an additional $30 billion for that conflict. After eight years, Afghanistan is now the longest war in US history, with no end in sight. Even the suggestion that troops would "begin" to return in 2011 would depend on the situation on the ground.
In Nov. 2009, 77 United Methodist Bishops sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to "set a timetable for the withdrawal of all coalition forces by the end of 2010." They note that Oct. 2009 was the deadliest month since the war began. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed in the war as well as 1500 US and coalition forces. They remind us that the position of the United Methodist Church is that "war is incompatible with the teachings of Christ."
"Our vision is a world in which people live together in peace and with mutual respect," the letter said. "We do not want to [make the mistake] of remaining silent in the face of another widening war. We believe there is no path to military victory in Afghanistan. We believe that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities."
Civilian casualties have escalated significantly in the past two years. The number of US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan has grown under both the Bush and Obama Administrations, and will now increase by at least 30,000. As troops increased steadily since 2006 it has fanned popular resentment at foreigners, increased the likelihood of violent attacks by both insurgents and coalition forces, and devoted precious resources to weapons rather than healthcare, education and community development.
Afghanistan has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates and average life expectancy is mid-forties. One in four Afghan children will not reach the age of five.
In the Dec. 2009 issue of Response magazine on Borders Peggy Hutchison quotes in her bible study Chris Hedges, war correspondent in many conflicts across the globe: "In wartime society, the moral order is flipped upside down; prostitution, rape and abuse all rise as the levels of violence rises. That happened in every conflict I was in…It always goes hand in hand, because what you are destroying is the humanity of the other."
This week Women's Division and GBGM staff gathered to view a new film on US policy in Afghanistan, "Rethinking Afghanistan," and reflected on the enormous impact that $30 billion more for war will have jobs, housing and economic needs at home as well as in Afghanistan. GBGM Human Rights executive David Wildman, who travels often to Afghanistan to visit United Methodist supported programs there said on a recent trip in November, Afghans told him that when US and allied troops come into a community, opposition forces are likely to retaliate and violence escalates, frequently affecting innocent civilians. This leads to animosity towards the US troops, and has actually increased those willing to join forces against them.
According to Roshanak Wardak, an Afghan Parliament member, "Most of the women do not want more troops—they need support to sustain their lives." Afghans "want the US investment to reflect what is needed to bring peace. They need investment in the people of Afghanistan. In truth, 90 percent of US funding to Afghanistan is used for military; only approximately 10 percent has been used for any kind of development."
Don Hazen in AlterNet cites RAWA, an Afghan women's organization, saying that President Karzai shows little interest in supporting women's rights. A recent law "explicitly legalizes marital rape as well as forcing women to dress and make themselves up according to their husband's demands, outlawing the ability to leave the home without a husband or a good reason to do so, and automatically granting custody of children to the male relatives."
Thus, in this Christmas time and in the new year, this is the moment to learn about the situation in Afghanistan, to pray and act for peace. Below find several resources to begin that journey. As many of our Bishops have led the way, let us prayerfully and faithfully "seek a just and peaceful resolution to the tragic war in Afghanistan."
For additional information see:
Resources for Study and Action on Afghanistan:
Ending the US War In Afghanistan by Phyllis Bennis and David Wildman. Download flyer (PDF, 1 pg, 53K) for order information.
Rethink Afghanistan, a Robert Greenwald film available online or on DVD. Six 10 minute segments that can be viewed separately, on troop escalation, costs of the war, impact on women and other topics. See www.rethinkafghanistan.com for more on the film.