After 20 years, the United States officially ended its military presence in Afghanistan on Aug. 31. Now, attention shifts squarely to the question of resettling Afghan refugees displaced by the conflict, especially those who aided the U.S.-led effort, as well as women and religious minorities who face repression in the aftermath of the Taliban’s swift return to power.
The U.S. alone evacuated more than 122,000 people from Afghanistan since Aug. 14, a number that includes thousands of American citizens but is mostly comprised of Afghans. Thousands of Afghan evacuees are waiting at U.S. military installments in places like Qatar, where they are processed and await a more permanent destination. President Joe Biden has announced his intention to resettle 50,000-65,000 Afghans in the U.S.
Catholics who have aided these resettlement efforts and will play a central role in the weeks and months to come describe their involvement as a matter of justice, not merely generosity.
Mario Russell, director of Immigration and Refugees Services for Catholic Charities USA, said the U.S. government has “a profound moral and social obligation” to provide for Afghans who helped the United States and are now at risk. Catholic Charities USA and its regional affiliates are working to resettle Afghan refugees and Special Immigrant Visa applicants, often meeting new arrivals at the U.S. military bases where they are initially housed and aiding them in their transition to American cities, from San Diego to Atlanta. The organization is receiving donations to support its efforts to provide aid to Afghan families seeking resettlement, while some local affiliates are providing opportunities to volunteer.
Catholic organizations used similar language in their vocal calls for the Biden administration to expedite the evacuation of Afghans at risk.
“Our government owes a debt of service to the Afghan people, not to mention the moral responsibility it has to help the women and children of Afghanistan who are now in imminent danger,” said Fran Eskin-Royer, executive director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Eskin-Royer also said her organization was “gravely concerned” about the safety of “Christians and those of other non-Muslim faiths,” saying that “we need get them out and give them welcome.”
As massive as the U.S. evacuation efforts were, they accounted for only a third of the 263,000 Afghan citizens who the International Rescue Committee estimates were affiliated with the U.S.’ nation-building efforts and now face Taliban reprisal. Evacuation efforts were hampered by the Taliban, which set up check points around the airport in Kabul and blocked Afghan citizens from leaving, but also by U.S. shortcomings.
Prior to the end of evacuations, Catholic foreign-policy experts who spoke to the Register grounded the imperative for U.S. action on behalf of Afghan refugees in the Church’s social teaching.
“I believe we have an obligation to give sanctuary to Afghans who worked closely with the U.S. government and military, including other NATO forces,” said Michael Desch, the director of the Notre Dame International Security Center, citing the Church’s Tradition on just war but also recent teaching on welcoming immigrants and refugees.
Desch said the U.S. also...Read the full National Catholic Register article here