Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am sure we have all been thinking of Afghanistan in recent days.
During the first world war my maternal grandfather was a private stationed in India with the 4th Battalion of the Queens Regiment, and was there in 1919 at the time of the Third Afghan War which began when Afghanistan invaded British India. Sadly, I never knew my grandfather who was killed in an accident when comparatively young so I never heard his accounts of his service there. I know that the battalion was awarded the Afghanistan 1919 battle honour. But he left behind some photographs of Peshawar and Kasur during martial law around the time of the Afghan war including some rather gruesome pictures of scaffolds being erected, apparently to hang the ringleaders of rioters in Kasur. There is also a very moving postcard in which he writes of doing his duty towards the country he loves, Old England, home and beauty. The third Afghan war lasted only from May to August 1919 but during that time records online show that 49 British troops and 187 Indian troops were killed in action, and there were 910 non-combat deaths. 1000 Afghans are recorded as having died.
The circumstances of the Third Afghan war were very different from those of the past twenty years when British troops have once again been in Afghanistan. Proportionately the number of British causalities in those twenty years have been much smaller than those of 1919. Every death is a tragedy but it saddens me to read of people saying those deaths were in vain, for I would rather think that these soldiers died doing their duty for a country that they loved. I need not add to the television and newspaper headlines about the decision to withdraw and the way it was done but I think most people agree that the withdrawal of troops could have been better managed (to say the least) so as not to undo the advances made during the past twenty years. But we hope that we can take the Taliban at its word and that many of those advances will not be reversed. In particular we should be pleased to have seen what we hope will be the end of terror camps and fanatical terrorists.
Yet who could fail to be moved by the television pictures of Afghans trying to flee their country, clinging to aircraft taking off from Kabul airport, passing children over the wall of the airport, crushing each other in the fight to get into the airport. There is a great deal of fear there. The country has faced many humanitarian issues during the past twenty years and now faces another one. We went into Afghanistan to deal with the moral evil of Al-Qaeda, but our withdrawal also raises many moral issues. We must pray for the people of Afghanistan and be ready to welcome refugees.
We must pray too for the people of Haiti. For some time Haiti has faced political, economic ad social unrest, including the assassination of the president in July, and faces a humanitarian crisis aggravated by Covid19. The recent earthquake and tropical storm have devastated the country. Aid is desperately needed to help counter these natural evils. Please hold the country and the aid workers in your prayers.
We grumble a lot in this country, the weather, the DVLA, our NHS…….. . But we have so much to be thankful for. We must always remember those less fortunate than ourselves.