Save Afghan Women

U.S. Goal to ‘Save Afghan Women’ a ‘Lie of White Saviorism,’ says Presbyterian Group

Kennedy Lee on September 7, 2021

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. 

  1. Comment by Sins of Omission on September 7, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Some people will never change, but I wonder how these people can sleep at night. How can they make sure everyone knows how evil the US, then never say a word about dozens, maybe hundreds of other countries that are infinitely worse than the US has ever been?

    I hope that there are many people who wake up and serve to defend these kind folks from the evil the decry and will never resist. May God grant them peace and security no matter how wrong they are.

  2. Comment by David S. on September 7, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Part of me wants to compare the PC(USA)’s leadership and its affiliates as mental patients in a mental hospital, except the sad fact is I would be insulting people with genuine mental health issues. The denomination is on this Matthew 25 kick, decries injustices at home and selectively abroad, and then they reveal their true, genuine character with statements like this, and that this Matthew 25 initiative is nothing more than a gospel of works.

    The truly sad issue is that I would like to think that the current Stated Clerk knows that these statements are just pigheadedly wrong, yet he lacks the moral conviction and courage to use the moral authority of his office to do anything about it. Yes, the Stated Clerk in the Presbyterian Church is like the President of the SBC in that he is more of a figurehead than anyone with real power as compared to say the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency or the Chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and heads of the SBC agencies, but sometimes the moral authority and clarity that the office affords has more influence on at least the membership than those with real power. When the current Stated Clerk decides to exert the energy to use the moral authority of his office to criticize the theological and political left, all this cowardly lion can do is issue a rather milquetoast comment that has no moral bite, and along with the current Executive Director, decides to cowardly hide behind the diversity of opinion polity. I found out the hard way on this. And at this point, I consider the PC(USA) much like the (T)EC(USA), a denomination that has ceased to be a Christian denomination.

  3. Comment by Loren Golden on September 8, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    David,

    Before being elected Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) in 2016, J. Herbert Nelson was the Director of the denomination’s Washington office. He is every bit on board with everything that comes out of the PMAB and other denominational special interest groups, such as the PPF. That he does not “exert the energy to use the moral authority of his office to criticize the theological and political left,” is not evidence of cowardice or lukewarmness on his part, but of his full agreement and consent with such offensive and outlandish statements as those issued by the PPF.

  4. Comment by Palamas on September 10, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    I have all the respect in the world for genuine Christian pacifists. I disagree with them, but consider what they do to be an important witness to the ethics of the Kingdom.

    These people, not so much. Through most if not all of their history, theirs has been a selective and politicized “pacifism,” one which consistently condemns every military action on the part of Western democracies (and Israel, natch), no matter what the reason for it, while rarely if ever saying a word about Communist, Islamic, or African military aggression or violence against their own people. They are, in essence, the Workers World Party in religious (not Christian) drag.

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