LEARNINGS FROM KABUL: An unwelcome warning from an unlikely source
- Published with permission. Written by DR DANIEL SHAYESTEH: Daniel was a fundamentalist Muslim political leader in the 1980’s in Iran. He is now leading a conversation with the Muslim world about Jesus. His passion is to share the light of Jesus by sharing his story and helping people to find Understanding and Freedom. The goal is to communicate this message in all the languages of the Muslim world.
- Website: https://www.exodusfromdarkness.org/ Video channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC95iGwwaA-NtTZNsgLh3Kag
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the occupation of Afghanistan by a US-led alliance of forces representing NATO and approved by the UN.
It was, from an American perspective, an action unashamedly undertaken as:
– a retaliation for 9/11;
– a search and destroy mission to rid the world of Osama bin Laden and Al Quaeda;
– an occupation to oust the ruling Taliban in an attempt to reform a country that had become the epicentre of violent Jihadism.
However, it was from the outset, an occupation that would always have to come to an end. Even when the mission morphed into a nation-building, reformist exercise: to democratise government, to liberate women and girls, to protect oppressed minorities – it was only ever intended as a ‘kick-start’.
Yet the occupation palpably reflected a mindset of ‘the superiority of the West’: Western democracy; Western civilization; Western culture; Western beliefs and values; Western might; and a Western right to dominate. It came with arrogance, hubris, invincibility and overconfident resolve to be the victors.
So, the spectre of Afghan Taliban leaders staring down Western democracies with belligerent glares that could only be translated: ‘We’re back!’, has been utterly overwhelming and humiliating for the West and especially for the forces who had invested and sacrificed so much to oust the Taliban from power and to bring some hope to the vulnerable sectors of Afghan society.
But, with this sudden return of triumphant Taliban control to Kabul, the West now faces a necessary period of torrid self-examination. These harsh Sunni heralds of medieval Sharia justice are not only scoffing at ‘democracy’ and its notions of ‘freedom’ and ‘civilization’; they are also putting ‘Christians’ all over the world on notice that they mean to crush all who oppose the teachings and practices of Islam.
Humiliation is always an unwelcome and painful experience to endure. However, when it is our time to face humiliation, it’s an experience that should not be wasted. So, let me look a little deeper at ourselves.
In the eyes of those who embrace the extremes of Sunni Islam (and, in fact, most committed Muslims of all branches of Islam), ‘Democracy’ equates to ‘Christianity’; ‘Western civilization’ equates to ‘Christian values’; ‘Christian values’ equate to ‘licentious morals’. They see Christianity as an accommodating, weak, permissive religion: a religion to be held in contempt along with their so-called civilized democratic culture. That’s what so incensed Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 Jihadist attacks.
Just a few weeks ago, a Taliban spokesman asserted from Kabul: ‘democracy has no place in Sharia law’. They despise it and they despise what they perceive to be its primary religion – Christianity. We are to them ‘infidels, dogs and swine’. These are terms direct from the pages of Islam’s most holy book.
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is a bold warning to Christians all over the world that the march of Islam to take over the world resumes where the Taliban left off 20 years ago. The vision for world domination that the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, instigated almost 1400 years ago has, in these last weeks, been reinvigorated. It has been given newfound energy and a fresh hatred to fuel new Islamist attacks around the world and particularly against Western Christians. Life for Christian minorities in Muslim-majority nations has all of a sudden become much more dangerous.
During the same period that Islam was resuming the extremism of previous centuries against ‘the infidels’, Western democracy has itself been fragmenting and declining. From a nurturing ‘shelter’ for Christian beliefs, standards, attitudes and values, Western societies have increasingly become, not only non-Christian, but anti-Christian and aggressively secular, permissive – even pagan. In this same period, the Christian church has become secularised – decimated by liberalism, populism and the accommodation of false teaching. Time and time again they’ve flirted with emerging social trends, embracing political correctness and adopting affirmative action. The beautiful Gospel of Jesus has, in many places, been gutted leaving an empty shell that has no authority to speak into its surrounding culture – an easy target to be crushed under foot. Islam sees only this empty shell – an easy target for its violent intentions.
The march of modernist attitudes in the West has accommodated any worldview that has come along (including so-called ‘moderate Islam’). Many Christian denominations have embraced them through the agency of ‘ecumenism’ and ‘multi-faith’ events. Through this accommodation, many Christians have gradually lost the capacity to discern good from evil, truth from heresy and God’s purposes from the evil wiles of the Devil. Sadly, the church now rarely speaks convincingly into its world. On the contrary, in many places it self-consciously teeters on the edge of extinction.
The very same culture of ‘democracy’ that once nurtured and championed Biblical values and standards in Western society and that honoured, celebrated and defended Christian institutions is now more likely to dismiss them as irrelevant – the enemy of our ‘progressive society’. Secular ‘prophets’ frequently vilify the church, ridiculing them and marginalizing them from the influential conversations of our society.
It seems timely then for Christians everywhere to be doing some serious soul-searching. The rapid decline in Western civilizations, and the fragmentation of their democracies, combined with the events of recent weeks in Afghanistan may just be the springboards we need for that deep reflection.
The ancient kingdom of Israel needed God to harden the heart of a pagan Middle-eastern king to shake his people to the core and to bring them back to his covenant purposes. Is it just possible that God might be allowing the events in Kabul to shake us up to see our collective arrogance, hubris, self-interest and presumed invincibility that so aggravates Islamic extremists and makes them want to vent their anger and impose their violent solutions on the West? Is it just possible that God might be allowing the events of Kabul to shake up the Western church to look at itself afresh and to examine its reputation and influence in the world? Is it just possible that God might be shaking us up for a ‘Jeremiah moment’ – a time to receive an unwelcome warning from an unlikely source? Is it just possible that we are being confronted, like the returned exiles from Babylon gathered outside Jerusalem to listen to Ezra re-teach them the stories of their covenant origins? Has the time come for deep communal confession? For tears of repentance and recommitment?
We love our civilized, advanced, prosperous societies: their democracy, liberty, culture, justice system, education, health care, material comforts and so on. But they are certainly not perfect – far from it! And the Muslim world notices!! I cannot help but think, as I examine the rapid disintegration of Western democracies and consider the crises that currently face us: How did this happen?
Like ancient Israel, it happened as millions of individuals ‘went to sleep at the wheel’. They first became complacent and then indifferent; they accommodated the godlessness of the nations around them. They compromised the standards that God had blessed them with. They ‘did evil in the sight of the Lord’.
Our world is in crisis because all of us incrementally compromise day in and day out. I find myself doing it. I’m reminded all too frequently of Romans 12:2: of the world ‘squeezing us’, moulding us into the evils of the culture that surrounds us.
The ministry of (Exodus From Darkness) EFD sits right in the midst of these two great challenges of our times: the events in Kabul and a weakened church in a fragmented, floundering culture. Together with those churches that remain committed to the Gospel of Jesus in all its fullness, EFD declares with Scripture that, if we are faithful to the truth of the teachings of Jesus, that truth will set free all who embrace it. (John 8:31-32). It is for times like this that we need the courage and the clarity of the Gospel to continue to speak fearlessly, yet with Godly humility and grace, that Islam is an enemy of the Gospel and an agent of evil in our world. Yet, at the same time, we come in peace and with love to all who will listen. That is not weakness. It is the truth at work in our lives.
While we are physically located in a Western democracy, we recognise its frailty. We reach out to Muslims around the world with a Gospel of peace. We present to the world a Jesus in whose service is ‘perfect freedom’. We speak with love to all people for whom Jesus’ death was sufficient to redeem and to save.
Meanwhile, we continue to reach out, pray for, advocate for and generously support that remnant of Christian believers who remain on the ground in centres of Islamic aggression all over the world, including Afghanistan.