Save the Children
Kabul (Agenzia Fides) - "The latest attacks are terrible. Being locked up in the Embassy, I do not have first-hand news, I know what is said through mass media. I believe that Afghanistan is at the center of power games between the great regional and world powers. I have to say with great suffering that at present we cannot see glimmers of light". This is the testimony given to Agenzia Fides by Fr. Giovanni Scalese, Barnabite priest who lives in Kabul and titular of the Missio sui iuris of Afghanistan, after the last bloody attacks that have upset the country.
Yesterday, January 24, three staff members of "Save the Children" humanitarian association died due to a kamikaze attack against the Jalalabad office in the east of the Country and 24 were injured. The NGO, present in Afghanistan since 1976, has suspended its activity in the country. The attack arrives a few days after the one in which four armed men, one of whom kamikaze, attacked the Intercontinental hotel in Kabul, causing 43 victims.
The mission of the Barnabites in Afghanistan has its base within the Italian Embassy in Kabul, where the Catholic presence was admitted at the beginning of the twentieth century as simple diplomatic spiritual assistance, but was then elevated to Missio sui iuris in 2002 by John Paul II. Fr. Scalese tells Fides: "on January 11, 2015, during the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, I began my Mission.
It has been three intense years. I am not bored at all: I see that days, weeks, months, years pass by quickly, despite the apparent inactivity that the current situation forces".
The Barnabite says he is not able to leave the diplomatic compound: "The general situation of Afghanistan does not tend to improve; on the contrary, I would say that it is progressively deteriorating. When, immediately after the fall of the Taliban regime, the Missio sui iuris was erected, the condition of the rest of the Country was very unstable, but in Kabul it was rather quiet. You could go out freely and carry out an almost normal life. Already when I arrived, however, in 2015, the impression I had was that of a city in a state under siege. Following the attack on May 31, 2017 against the German Embassy (which caused about 150 victims), the 'Green Zone', where the government buildings and diplomatic missions are located, became an authentic fortress, from where it is not advisable to go out and in which it is difficult to enter". In this difficult situation, he observes, "we continue to entrust the Afghan people and the future of the country to God, trusting that the Lord can give a time of peace, reconciliation, well-being and development". "The Afghan Catholic Mission, within the limits imposed by the situation, keeps the flame of hope and faith alight in a context, apparently at least resistant to the Gospel. With its poor activities, it gives a circumscribed but significant witness of disinterested love for the last. But, above all through the Eucharist, Christ is also made present in this remote region of Central Asia", observes Fr. Scalese.
In addition to the Barnabite, there is also the Catholic presence of the nuns of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the inter-congregational "Pro Bambini of Kabul" association in the capital Kabul. Until 2016, the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucauld were also active, who arrived in Afghanistan in the 1950s. "Furthermore, the military forces have their internal organization, even from a spiritual point of view. For example, in the NATO base in Kabul there is a Catholic chaplain, and even the Italian troops stationed in Herat have their chaplain", concludes Father Giovanni. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 25/1/2018)