Afghanistan presents to the world a convincing picture of international crisis and human woe. Foreign forces will cease military operations no later than 2014 and possibly sooner. In all likelihood, analysts agree, the Taliban insurgency will not have ended and significant steps toward stability will not have been taken. Will the nation survive?
In early May, a leader seen as “an inspiration” in the effort to persuade the Taliban to lay down their weapons and join a peaceful Afghanistan was gunned down. In rural districts, young girls cherishing only the modest hope of an education have had acid thrown in their faces.
It is precisely the sort of place that, throughout history, has made humanity doubt the existence or administration of a loving God. But in my three trips to Afghanistan for the Monitor, I never once saw it this way, and I am convinced that Jesus would not have, either.
On the night before he was to suffer violence of the most malicious sort – a violence specifically calculated to quench the light he had brought into the world – Jesus made this remarkable statement: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
By material reckoning, the Pharisees who opposed his mission accomplished their goal the next day. Jesus died and was entombed. But history is witness that the Spirit that Jesus said animated him won the real victory. The peace that he gave to human hearts knew no defeat – it could not be entombed – because its awesome spiritual power was forever above and apart from the limited reckoning of the carnal mind. This power raised Jesus from the dead and imparted to his disciples the Holy Ghost – that Spirit-born conviction that the risen Christ is more powerful than all, because it is evidence of God’s omnipotent love for each of us.
The peace that the Christ gave – that “passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) – has always been apart from and incomprehensible to the world of bullets and suicide bombs. And it remains in operation, even in Afghanistan.
In Kandahar, I met 9-year-old Nazeka. Her mother was dead. Her father had been taken from their home one night by people she did not know and for reasons she could not comprehend. Later she found him murdered. And yet the reason I can never forget Nazeka was her smile – how she ran among the earthen houses of her neighborhood with her friends, radiant with the undimmed joy of childhood.
In Laghman, I met a council of village elders who set up community watches to defend their girls’ school after it had been burned to the ground by those intent on hindering Afghan progress – a statement of defiance against unjust social customs, and a loving affirmation of value of their own daughters. Their honest conviction even persuaded one local Taliban commander to send his own girls to school.
Afghanistan and its people are not – can never be – lost. Their peace cannot be negotiated or imposed, and the world cannot take it away.
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