Living By Faith in Afghanistan

By Duane Shank 8-11-2010

As reflection on the killing of ten aid workers from the International Assistance Mission (IAM) in Afghanistan continues, two pieces today highlighted its significance. Fr. Francis X. Clooney uses Hebrews 11, the honor roll of faith, to comment:

The author of Hebrews is not an optimist, but rather admits that all these noble women and men lived in-between lives, on missions provoked by rare, fragile encounters with God's word, missions that were rarely or never completed in their lifetimes: "All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland." They lived by faith, caught in between a Word that gave them a life and a mission, and the inevitable failings and ultimately death that cut short such missions. As in Afghanistan the other day. They gave themselves to a risky and unexpected work, and died before there was peace in Afghanistan, before every eye was healed, every sick person attended to: by things hoped for, things unseen.

And Lisa Schirch of the 3D Security Initiative based at Eastern Mennonite University's Center for Justice & Peacebuilding suggests that while U.S. government diplomats and development workers spend their time inside well-guarded concrete security compounds,

Humanitarian groups like IAM have a unique perspective on the plight of Afghanistan and what could be done to build peace here. While they risk their lives, they also are able to help thousands of Afghans with medical care, clean water, schools and all the other forms of development that help build security from the ground up.

The role that people of faith have in a situation such as Afghanistan, and what policymakers could learn from their willingness to take risks in order to serve, are two important lessons from the lives and deaths of IAM's martyrs.

Duane Shank is senior policy advisor for Sojourners.

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