The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF), a Presbyterian Church (USA)-affiliated network that condemns any and all military action — and touts its 1940s origins as an organization that provided shelter to “conscientious objectors” to World War II — has thoughts on Afghanistan.
In a statement released Tuesday, August 31, the day of President Joe Biden’s self-imposed withdraw deadline of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, PPF lists the gruesome images of Afghans holding onto planes taking off from Kabul, interpreters and their families hiding in fear, and bombings by ISIS-K as a “direct result of imperialist occupation by the United States.”
Although the statement seemingly blames ISIS-K attacks on U.S. imperialism, the statement goes on to take a jab at Biden, who has consistently defended the undisputedly heartbreaking crises that unfolded throughout the last three weeks as “inevitable.”
On the contrary, the statement asserts: “The crisis in Afghanistan right now as the United States pulls out after two decades of war is only inevitable (as President Biden has said it is) if we think war is inevitable.” It then goes on to remind readers that PPF condemns any and all military action by any party, as well as regards all military action as “always contrary to the Christian gospel.”
Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000-12,000 Christians remain in Afghanistan — almost all of whom are converts from Islam — and most of whom are now in hiding from the Taliban. As Afghan Christians began to feel safer and more forthright about their faith in recent years, thanks to the institutions built since U.S. involvement in the country and the Taliban’s fall in 2001, they are surely prime targets of the ascendant Taliban.
The PPF statement goes on to criticize Christian Realism and those who adhere to Just War teaching, billing PPF’s solutions as derived from “Christians who believe that the realism of Jesus is more compelling than the so-called realism that attempts to justify war.”
Perhaps the greatest cause for concern is the statement’s inclusion of an August 27 message from the Rev. Ben Daniel, Pastor of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, California, in which he asserts:
“And while a concern for the wellbeing of Afghan women or ethnic and religious minorities played exactly no role in the United States’ decision to invade the Central Asian nation known to be the ‘graveyard of empires’ after the terrorist attacks of September 11, the military mission dragged on for twenty years in part because the United States saw itself as the savior of Afghan’s downtrodden population, especially women and girls.”
Daniel further asserts that “the American military has committed far more crimes against humanity than it has prevented.” His list of assertions of American military crimes against humanity includes U.S. assistance to Afghan mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion.
The PPF-affiliated pastor deems this “a period of ten years when Afghan women had more freedoms than they’ve ever had before or since,” which is absurd.
For context, here is a useful background piece on the ups and downs of women’s rights in Afghanistan, in which the author notes the deterioration of the status of women during this ten-year civil war.
Conversely, albeit with admitted flaws, the post-2001 mission of the U.S. and new Afghan government made improvement in the lives of Afghan women and girls a central focus. Moreover, the 2004 Afghan constitution specifically contained provisions guaranteeing women’s rights and quotas to ensure their participation in the political process.
Alas, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s general statement on Afghanistan lauds Daniel’s polemic, and even goes a step further, making the claim that “the United States used the lie of white saviorism — that we were going to ‘save Afghan women’ — to justify the violence of war.”
It’s odd that an organization whose mission “urges the abolition of war and encourages our sisters and brothers to enact peace in the midst of our broken world” seems to gleefully cheer the “end of U.S. imperialism” instead of lamenting the ascent of a militant organization actively on the hunt for Afghanistan’s Christian minorities.