Catholic Leaders Respond to Situation in Afghanistan

Civilians prepare to board a plane during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)


After 20 years of fighting, the Taliban are once again in control of Afghanistan. Church leaders and organisations have issued various statements in response to the crisis throughout the week. A compilation of these, alongside a selection of recent news articles, can be found below.


Note: The ‘Vatican’ section of this list was updated on 28 August.


Bishops’ Conferences

Bishop for International Affairs urges Catholics to pray for Afghanistan. Bishop Declan Lang, the Lead Bishop for International Affairs in England and Wales, has asked Catholics to pray for the people of Afghanistan in light of the Taliban takeover. In a brief statement, Bishop Lang pointed to the work of humanitarian organisations, and efforts to welcome refugees, as signs of hope.


Irish Bishops call on government to assist refugees from Afghanistan. The Catholic Bishops of Ireland are calling on the Irish government to do more for forcibly displaced people fleeing from Afghanistan. Bishop McGuckian said: “This unfolding crisis presents Ireland with another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the protection of human rights, including access to education for all, and to welcome the stranger among us.” Read the article here.


US Bishops’ Conference urge quick action on relocating Afghan refugees. On 17 August, American bishops issued a statement emphasising the need for the US government to work quickly to achieve its goal of relocating 30,000 special immigrant visa applicants from Afghanistan, describing it as a “monumental task that hangs in the balance.” Read the article here.


Catholic Organisations

Aid to the Church in Need warns of ‘black future’ for religious freedom. Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of the pontifical foundation ACN, has expressed his profound concerns about the seizure of power in, and the renaming of, Afghanistan. The organisation said that all those who do not hold views of the Taliban are at risk, even moderate Sunni. The Shia (10%), the small Christian community, and all other religious minorities, already under threat, will suffer even greater oppression. ACN described the situation as a “huge setback for all human rights and especially for religious freedom in the country.” Read the article here.


Caritas: ‘Wait and see’ how Taliban affects humanitarian work. Crux spoke with the head of Caritas Internationalis, Aloysius John, to discuss what the organisation can do to help the people of Afghanistan. During the interview, John said: “Caritas was acting in different ways in Afghanistan, and today, I think there will be a need for Caritas member organizations to come together and map our action plan. We’re going to have crisis meetings to see what should be done in this context, wherein we can agree to bring support to the people. As of now, we’re waiting to see how the situation evolves and what is the best way for us to help.”


JRS calls on UK Government to protect Afghan refugees. In an open letter, the Jesuit Refugee Service has joined with other organisations to urge the government to establish protection solutions for Afghans currently in the UK and their families, and for those who will be obliged to seek sanctuary in the coming weeks and months. Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK, said: “In an emergency, refugees have little freedom on how they travel to safety or where they go, and that the journey to flee is fraught with danger… It is vital to ensure that Afghans seeking sanctuary here are not penalised for how they have been able to travel”. Read the article here.


Pax Christi urges Taliban to “reject abusive power”. In a statement, Pax Christi International has called on the Taliban to honour their promises to create a secure environment and avoid retaliation. The Catholic peace organisation also requested the international community to provide immediate aid and humanitarian assistance in the region. Furthermore, Pax Christi urged the United Nations to undertake efforts to negotiate or coerce Taliban respect for international law and standards of decent behaviour.


Church in Afghanistan

Caritas Italy and Jesuits suspend activities. Caritas Italy has announced the suspension of charitable activities in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of the country. In a statement released 15 August, Caritas said the “instability of the situation has led to the suspension of all activities” and has increased fears “of maintaining a presence in the future, as well as for the safety of the few Christian Afghans” in the country. The Jesuits, who have been in Afghanistan since 2004, have also suspended their mission in the country “indefinitely.” Read the article here.


Kabul Catholic priest pleads for prayers as Taliban take over. The priest who is responsible for the Catholic Church’s presence in Afghanistan asked for prayer just before the Taliban took control of the country’s capital, Kabul. “We are living days of great apprehension as we await what happens,” Fr. Giovanni Scalese told Vatican Radio on Saturday. “My appeal to the listeners of Vatican Radio is to pray…pray, pray, pray for Afghanistan!” Read the article here.


Persecution of Christians set to rise following Taliban takeover. As the Taliban continues to strengthen its control over Afghanistan, Release International has warned that attacks on Christians are likely to rise across the region. Some who worked for the Afghan government now face reprisals and any identified as Christians may be killed. A contact of Release International said: “Our brothers and sisters in Christ are telling us how afraid they are. In the areas that the Taliban now control girls are not allowed to go to school and women are not allowed to leave their homes without a male companion”.



Pope prays for peace in Afghanistan. After leading the Angelus on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Pope Francis expressed his concern regarding the situation in Afghanistan. He asked everyone to pray to “the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.” He said only this way can the “battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children” be able to “return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect”. Watch the video here.


UPDATE: Cardinal urges government to welcome more fleeing Afghans. Cardinal Vincent Nichols has challenged the government to allow more refugees to come to the UK in light of the crisis in Afghanistan. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, he said that the “moral obligation” from a Christian perspective was “always to try and welcome the stranger”. To find out more, you can read the article or listen to the programme.


UPDATE: Holy See expresses deep concern over crisis in Afghanistan. On 24 August, Monsignor John Putzer, chargé d’affaires of the Holy See’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva, expressed deep concern regarding the situation in Afghanistan. Speaking at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council, he called on all parties to “recognize and uphold the respect for the human dignity and fundamental rights of every person, including the right to life, the freedom of religion, the right to freedom of movement and the right to peaceful assembly.” Read the full statement here.


UPDATE: Vatican rumoured to be negotiating with Taliban over ‘humanitarian corridor’. It has been reported that Pope Francis has opened a line of communication between the Vatican and the Taliban to create a ‘humanitarian corridor’. While this has neither been confirmed or denied, its existence may help thousands of refugees safely evacuate. Il Tempo, an Italian newspaper, claims that the Vatican is using Turkey’s President Erdogan as an intermediary.