Call for compassion and leadership on Afghanistan
The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly has joined calls urging the Australian Government to act urgently, swiftly, compassionately and with leadership in responding to the crisis in Afghanistan.
The Assembly is one of more than 300 organisations who have signed a joint letter to all Federal MPs and Senators urging them to take seven practical actions to help provide safety for those fleeing the danger, including additional settlement places for Afghan refugees, and permanent protection for those in Australia.
Taliban insurgents seized the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday after taking control of the country in just over a week, following weeks of fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan Government forces and the withdrawal of Western troops from Afghanistan.
There is now grave concern for the safety of many who remain in Afghanistan as crowds of desperate people flocked to the airport in an attempt to escape.
UCA President Rev Sharon Hollis encouraged Uniting Church members to pray for the people of Afghanistan impacted by the violence and for those desperately seeking protection and safety.
“We hold in our prayers the people of Afghanistan who long for peace after decades of armed conflict, and we pray for the safety and security of all Afghan people in this latest crisis,” said Rev Hollis.
The UCA President called on the Australian Government to show leadership in its response to the crisis by taking steps to protect the safety of those who remain in Afghanistan.
The Assembly joined the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, the National Council of Churches in Australia, Refugee Council of Australia, and other organisations, businesses, and community groups in the joint letter.
The letter acknowledges the Government’s existing effort in working to provide visas to those who worked with Australia in Afghanistan and asks the Government to "urgently intensify these efforts to help these people evacuate Afghanistan."
It reads, "We believe that Australia can help to provide international leadership through its own response and by encouraging other governments to act."
Rev Sharon Hollis acknowledged the actions taken by Australian Government to evacuate Australians and Afghan nationals with a visa.
She welcomed the assurance that Afghan people in Australia would not be returned in the current context, but encouraged the Government to do more to protect those whose lives were at risk.
"One step is to provide permanent protection for the 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas to provide certainty for a safe future."
“Secondly, Australia can offer a significant number of additional refugee settlement places for Afghan refugees sending a strong message that the world is ready to share the responsibility to protect lives.”
“We also offer our support and prayers to the many Afghan Australians and Afghani refugees and temporary visa holders based here in Australia. As they desperately seek news of loved ones and in some cases face uncertain futures themselves, we ask that the Australian Government will do all in its power to support them and their families."
The Taliban takeover comes after weeks of violent fighting between Taliban insurgents and Afghanistan forces and follows the withdrawal of the US, Australian and other Western troops.
The Refugee Council of Australia said reports have emerged of executions and forced marriages of young women and girls. Members of religious minorities are also at grave risk.
There is also fear the Taliban will undo years of work to support the education, safety and autonomy of Afghanistan’s women, including in programs funded by the Australian Government.
Moderator of the NSW/ACT Synod Rev Simon Hansford shared a prayer for Afghanistan. In part it reads,
“We weep at what we have seen
in these last weeks and months;
we are heart-struck
with what we fear will happen now.
We have nowhere else to turn, but you;
and so we cry out:
halt the violence,
restrain those who would seek vengeance,
shelter those most at risk”.
Read the prayer in full here
The World Council of Churches has also called people to prayer.