A Prayer for the People of Afghanistan
Last November, my wife and I spent a couple of nights in the seaside town of Hunstanton, in Norfolk. We stayed at a lovely old hotel with high sash windows and thick stone walls. With the challenges of Covid and having heard some difficult family news, it was good to get some respite.
Located on a peninsular, the November wind ripped forcefully through Hunstanton one afternoon—churning up the sea, sending hats flying, making the flags of the war memorial snap violently. By that evening gusts were pounding our hotel like angry fists on a door. And yet we were at peace. Those stone walls were so strong, the foundations so solid. While nature’s war raged outside, our room was a refuge.
Like many, I’ve watched speechless this week as events in Afghanistan have unfolded. Taliban flags raised over Kabul, desperate crowds chasing planes down runways. Better minds than mine can cite reasons and assign blame; all I’ve been able to do is recall that moment in Hunstanton and turn it into a prayer—a prayer for refuge:
- Refuge for those left on that airport tarmac, fearful of life ahead
- Refuge for Afghan soldiers, translators and others fearing reprisal
- Refuge for the women and girls fearing a loss of education and employment, and the threat of child marriage
- Refuge for Afghanistan’s Christians who are already being targeted
- Refuge for veterans wondering if the lives and limbs lost these last twenty years were worth it
Refuge is an important theme in scripture. God himself is described as a refuge for the vulnerable—”You have been a refuge for the poor… a shelter from the storm… For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall” (Isaiah 25:4). For many people I’ve met or interviewed who’ve faced terror, worship has been their prime source of resilience. But scripture also talks of refuge as something we provide, whether through designating safe cities those fearing reprisal can flee to, or communities offering hospitality to refugees. As heaven and earth join forces, the vulnerable find safety—so I’m praying for governments, councils, churches and aid organisations too.
The storm in Hunstanton had passed by the following morning—soft breeze, calm sea, warm sun making the seagulls glow. It’s an image I’m holding on to for the people of Afghanistan: refuge today and a brighter tomorrow.
First aired on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show (listen here)
Image by Afghani artist Shamsia Hassani