As the world approaches summer, it often means a time of rest. Children get out of school and adults prepare for better weather. Unfortunately, the people in Ukraine don’t have the option to relax.
Even after two months of constant fear, the citizens of Ukraine don’t get a chance to relax. With the Russian army bombing their cities, Ukrainians are constantly checking the news on their phones: desperately hoping that their families won’t be among the many victims hurt, or killed, by Russian soldiers.
Many Ukrainian women keep journals. They write down their prayers and their feelings, hoping for a small escape from their horrifying realities. They are scared, they are angry, and they feel helpless. It’s a mother’s instinct to protect her children, and there is nothing more frightening than realizing that you have no way to protect your family.
Many Christians are struggling to hold tight to their faith. It’s one thing to say that God is working for the good of those who love him, but it’s another thing to preach it to others in the middle of a crisis. Many people see bodies, killed by Russian soldiers, and many more bury their loved ones. While some Ukrainians can retreat to safe houses, it doesn’t erase the horror of what is going on outside the walls.
When asked about seeing God’s plan in the conflict around him, the President of Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary, Ivan Rusyn, said, “We [the Ukranians] are fighting a giant. I want to say I see God’s hand at work. Here in the safe house, I can. But when I go back to Bucha [the city in Ukraine where Rusyn lives] tomorrow, can I say it to an old woman? Can I tell her that God is working in her life? Theologically, I believe he is. But in such suffering, I lack the strength to communicate it.”
3,409 miles away, the situation in Afghanistan, though not as covered by the media, is almost as dire as Ukraine. While the fighting has stopped, the death hasn’t.
On October 8, not long after the US left, a suicide bomber killed at least 72 people and injured over 140 in a mosque in Kunduz. The Taliban continue to hunt and kill dozens of former officials and security force personnel. Many women holding important government offices have also been killed, including two judges.
Despite the death, the biggest change in Afghanistan is the economic and humanitarian crises caused by the Taliban takeover.
The New York Federal Reserve cut off the Afghanistan Central Bank’s access to its US dollar assets and the International Monetary Fund is preventing the country from accessing funding like the Special Drawing Rights. Once the US left Afghanistan, donors stopped payments to Afghanistan’s Reconstruction Trust Fund, which was used to pay civil servants’ salaries. All of these issues have thrown Afghanistan into an economic collapse. Some people estimate that 97% of Afghans could sink below the poverty line by mid-2022 because of these financial issues.
In addition to finances, many families now have to worry about the future of their daughters. The Taliban have banned girls from attending school above the sixth grade. Female teachers have been dismissed from their posts as teaching males is no longer allowed for them. Female humanitarian workers are either being banned or restricted in the aid they can provide, and almost all female government employees have been dismissed.
The Afghan media is also under attack. At least 32 journalists were jailed by the Taliban after Kabul was overtaken. The head of the Ghazni journalists’ union, Rahmatullah Nekzad, was fatally shot on his way home. Though the Taliban denied responsibility, Nekzad had received threats from Taliban commanders in his area.
The world is a scary place, and sometimes it can feel like homeschooling creates a bubble of protection. But the truth is that not everyone has that bubble; not everyone has the same rights that Americans or other Western citizens have. So as summer approaches, keep that in mind. Stay updated and continue to pray. God calls us to pray continually and the people of Afghanistan and Ukraine need our prayers. They are going through countless nightmares right now. We may not be able to fight off Russians or educate Afghan girls, but we can pray. And we can never forget.
So let’s pray. And let’s remember.