- - Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Taliban of today is not the same Taliban that U.S. forces drove out of Kandahar, Afghanistan, 20 years ago in response to the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda terrorists.

We make a fatal error if we believe in a “Taliban 2.0” that will respect human rights, grant general amnesty, and foster economic prosperity, as one Taliban spokesman claimed.

No, they are Taliban 2.0, strengthened by the lessons they have learned over the past two decades. They are determined to survive, evolve, and rule Afghanistan after the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops and former President Ashraf Ghani’s flight from the country. An ex-CIA agent who served in Afghanistan recently said, “They are more brutal, battle-hardened, and much more hostile to Western ideas and Christianity.”

The eyewitness reports coming out of Afghanistan are heartbreaking.

According to an NGO working in Afghanistan, over 300 Afghan interpreters and their family members have already been killed for working alongside the U.S. military and civilian agencies. Because the Taliban has access to and control over Afghan government records, the number of deaths and kidnappings will grow rapidly and exponentially.

Sahraa Karimi, general director of the Afghan Film Organization and the first and only woman in Afghanistan to hold a doctorate in cinema and filmmaking, tweeted, “In the last few weeks, they have massacred our people, they kidnapped many children, they sold girls as brides to their men…It’s a humanitarian crisis, and yet the world is silent.”

Our silence is costing the lives of the most vulnerable members of Afghan society: girls and women.

Before the Taliban was forced out of Afghanistan in 2001, girls and women were denied education. Only a few thousand girls had access to underground schools, as a United States Institute of Peace special report notes. Following the nation’s liberation by U.S. forces, nearly 3 million girls were enrolled in school between 2011 and 2012.

A generation of women in Afghanistan has grown up with opportunities to lead, to speak up for the oppressed, and to bring about change. As a NBC News article explains: “Though gender equality never became a flagship priority for the Afghani government, some progress had been made over the decades…For example, women became judges, ministers, and police officers. And in 2020, Afghanistan’s parliament had a higher percentage of women than the U.S. Congress.”

Now, the Taliban plans to reinstate Sharia law in Afghanistan, which will erase the rights of women and girls. While the Taliban asserts it will respect women’s rights “within the framework of Islam,” history tells us otherwise — and women and girls are already being killed and brutalized by Taliban fighters.

Apathy is not an option, while more than 14 million women and girls in Afghanistan suffer in ways we cannot comprehend.

Some years ago, I found myself at a crossroads: Would I continue to turn away from the atrocities I saw on my television screen every day, or would I do something about them? Would I “let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God,” as Bob Pierce once wrote?

I allowed God to break my heart. 

In 2014, I founded Reload Love, a nonprofit organization that aids children who are survivors of terrorism. Through a network of in-country partners in 14 different nations across Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, we provide trauma relief, medical supplies, academic programs, and safe spaces such as playgrounds for children who have endured the horrors of war.

Currently, we are raising funds for emergency relief aid and relocation services for families. We have set a goal of $25,000, and we are almost halfway there. We also have the opportunity to join former CIA, USSOCOM, JSOC, and other service veterans who are doing all they can to relocate our Afghan allies. These families will arrive at their destinations with nothing. They will need food, shelter, clothing, and so much more.

We must all take a stand against the evil of the Taliban. So many brave Afghans — most importantly vulnerable women and children — are at risk of losing everything. If you are grieved by what is happening in Afghanistan, then I implore you to act. Pray. Give. Volunteer. Write your representatives. Call on the current administration to protect and evacuate Afghans, especially women and girls. This is our opportunity to obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We will never be able to eradicate evil from this earth. But we can all stand up to the terrors of this world by yielding the most powerful weapon of all: our hearts. 

• Lenya Heitzig is the founder of Reload Love and co-founder, with her husband Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church in New Mexico. Learn more or help at www.reloadlove.com

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