Bishops Urge Action on Afghanistan Crisis

Reactions from Church Leaders in United States, England and Wales, and Ireland

Bishops Urge Action
Mario E. Dorsonville - Archiocese of Washington

Bishops urge action on the Afghanistan crisis, with statements from the United States, England and Wales, and Ireland.

A widespread humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Afghanistan, with the Taliban swiftly seizing control of the capital on August 15. Thousands of people who have worked as interpreters, translators, and in other capacities alongside the United States military over the past twenty years, including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants, find themselves and their families in danger. The United States is in the process of evacuating diplomats and other US government employees. However, all commercial flights to and from Kabul’s airport have been suspended for the time being. YOn August 17, the US President authorized the use of up to $500 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for meeting the urgent needs of Afghan refugees and SIV applicants.

In response to these events, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:

“We have known that the withdrawal of American forces and evacuation of vulnerable Afghans, including those who supported our military or worked with NGOs and other organizations, would be a complicated process that had the potential for instability in Afghanistan. The images and videos coming out of the country are difficult to view, as people make life or death decisions in desperation. We are particularly concerned for all those requiring evacuation, as well as Afghan women and girls, who risk losing opportunities gained over the last two decades and now face potential mistreatment.

“For the past few weeks, staff from the USCCB, Catholic Charities, and other partners have been at Fort Lee in Virginia, assisting the U.S. government in the welcoming and resettlement of SIV applicants and their families. We will continue that work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety.

“The government’s goal to relocate as many as 30,000 SIV applicants to the United States remains a monumental task that hangs in the balance. We know that time is of the essence to help our brothers and sisters in need, and we call on our government to act with the utmost urgency, considering all available avenues to preserve life. We also join the Holy Father in praying for peace in Afghanistan— ‘that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.’”

From England and Wales

The chair of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Department of International Affairs has urged Catholics to pray for the people of Afghanistan, while pointing to the work of humanitarian organizations, and efforts to welcome refugees, as signs of hope.

Bishop Declan Lang said:

“As Christians, we are called to be people of hope, even when a situation may appear hopeless.

“Today our hope can be placed in those who are working tirelessly for dialogue, justice, and peace in their country.

Our hope can be placed in the humanitarian organizations that are continuing to offer their assistance, and the efforts to welcome and protect refugees fleeing their homes.

“Above all, we place our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we pray in the knowledge that he will never abandon the people of Afghanistan.”

After the Angelus on Wednesday Pope Francis called for dialogue in the country:

“I ask all of you to pray with me to the God of peace so that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue. Only thus can the battered population of that countrymen, women, elderly, and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.”

From Ireland

While welcoming Ireland’s intervention at the UN Security Council on the crisis in Afghanistan, and appeal for safe and reliable humanitarian access for its people – together with the commitment of the Government to accept 150 refugees under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme – Bishop Alan McGuckian, Chair of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, has urged that the processes involved be accelerated and that the acceptance of additional refugees in Ireland should be considered as a policy priority.

Bishop McGuckian said, “Ireland, as one of the wealthier nations of the world, must do more for forcibly displaced people in terms of welcome and integration through State and community supports.  Yes, our hearts are deeply moved by the panicked scenes of people fleeing, but it should not take such scenes and circumstances to force governments to act.

“According to the UNHCR, at the end of 2020, there were 82.4m forcibly displaced people worldwide. Yet 85% of these are being looked after in the least wealthy nations, with only 15% being accommodated in the wealthier countries of the world, including Ireland.  What does this say to us about solidarity and fraternity in our world today?”

Bishop McGuckian continued, “This unfolding crisis presents Ireland with another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the protection of human rights, including access to education for all, and to welcome the stranger among us.  As Pope Francis reminds us, we are called to respond to such challenges with four actions: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.

“I ask people to pray for the safe protection of the people of Afghanistan and other war-torn regions of the world.  In the interest of justice and peace, refugees should be welcomed and integrated into our communities.  The values of our Irish faith tradition teach us that outreach, encounter, and authentic dialogue can bring the true peace that the world needs at this time.”