Today we’re featuring a guest post from Jeanette Windle, the award winning author of Betrayed, Freedom’s Stand and Veiled Freedom. If you’d like to read Jeanette’s book Veiled Freedom, it’s currently, for a limited time, being offered for free in ebook format in the following places:
Afghanistan, Faith and Freedom’s Stand
By Jeanette Windle
Once you’ve found true freedom, how far would you go to share it with others? My recent Tyndale House fiction release Freedom’s Stand is a sequel to 2010 Christian Book Award and Christy Award, Veiled Freedom, set in contemporary Afghanistan. In brief, Veiled Freedom brought together on Kabul’s dusty streets three unlikely allies, each in their own personal quest for truth and freedom. Returning in Freedom’s Stand, they soon discover that in a country where political and religious injustice runs rampant, the cost of either may be higher than they realize.
This entire story was birthed of my own frustration, disappointment—and hope. Like others, I had rejoiced in the post-9/11 overthrow of Afghanistan’s Taliban, believing it presaged new optimism for freedom and peace in that region. A decade later, headlines reflect instead rising violence, corruption, lawlessness and despair. The signing of Afghanistan’s new constitution, establishing an Islamic republic under sharia law, tolled a death knell for any hope of real democracy.
And yet the many players I’ve met in this drama have involved themselves for the most part with the best of intentions. The more I came to know the region and love its people, I was left asking, “If with all the aid and arms and good intentions, freedom has not come to Afghanistan, what is the true source of freedom? Can outsiders ever truly purchase freedom for another culture or people?”
The answer is, of course, that true freedom cannot be bestowed on another people through arms or an aid package, but only through individual hearts transformed by coming face to face with Jesus Christ.
Ironically, the real-life narrative that most inspired this story had not yet happened when I began writing it, though conditions were such I knew it was only a matter of time. By the time Freedom’s Stand headed to print, Red Cross therapist and war amputee Sayed Mossa was but one Afghan Isa-follower who had found himself on death row for his faith under the current Karzai regime. Though back-door deals recently brought about Sayed’s release, this is not the unmitigated victory it seems. Sayed Mossa is now exiled from his country as a condemned apostate, while other Isa-followers with less public press continue on death row in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the freedom of faith issue itself remains unaddressed.
In Freedom’s Stand, main protagonist Steve Wilson makes the blunt statement regarding freedom of faith in Afghanistan: “The way I see it, we can’t walk the fence forever. Sooner or later the nations that call themselves free are going to face one of two choices. Either they’ll have to face head-on an oppressive, corrupt ideology that dictates to a billion people how they can or cannot pray, think, act, believe. Which will be a problem since in the meantime they’ve been arming regimes practicing that ideology to their collective teeth. Or they’re going to wake up one day and discover that their own freedoms are gone. What won’t happen is that the ‘free West’ can keep enjoying forever their own freedoms while tacitly conceding those are now considered optional for the rest of this planet.”
Whether ratifying sharia law constitutions for Afghanistan and Iraq or arming to the teeth Islamic fundamentalist governments like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia without requiring any accountability regarding human rights and freedom of faith, we are seeing a steady erosion among both the United States and other Western governments to any policy commitment that basic human freedoms are a non-negotiable right of every human being, not just those fortunate enough to live in “free” nations. As my Freedom’s Stand protagonist so aptly pointed out, sooner or later, that compromise will come back to bite us.
Is there hope for Afghanistan?
I will never forget one female humanitarian volunteer I met while in Kabul researching. Working within the Afghan educational system, she was decorously draped in hair shawl and long-sleeved, floor-length chapan overcoat despite 100 degree Fahrenheit summer weather. Still young, unmarried, and a known follower of Isa Masih, Jesus Christ, she’d begun to receive death threats. Not from mullahs or Taliban, but fellow professors and male students whose very livelihood and education were being funded by Western aid dollars.
Did she see things as getting better, I asked her. Would democracy and freedom eventually somehow ooze out of this mess on its own, as Western embassies fantasized? And what did the current deteriorating situation presage for the safety of volunteers like herself?
For a long, silent moment, she paused. Then, calmly, quietly, she answered, “It’s going to come to the shedding of blood.”
She paused again before adding just as calmly and quietly, “And I’m willing for that blood to be mine.”
And therein lies the hope for Afghanistan that neither guns nor aid nor elections have been able to effect. The hope for our planet. Love. Unstinting. Unconditional. Self-sacrificing. Life-transforming.
Love of the Almighty Creator stepping into a troubled planet in the human form of Isa Masih, Jesus Christ, walking our dusty streets to draw us back to himself and in the end laying down His life on a cross in atonement for our sins.
Love of Christ-followers abandoning comfortable homes and lives to step into a troubled nation in some distant corner of the planet, laying down their lives in service to a people who too often do not even appreciate their sacrifice. That quiet, sacrificial self-abandoning love became the inextricable thread running through the Veiled Freedom/Freedom’s Stand story.
What can we do? What should we do?
One, we need to pray for Christians on death row in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, for the body of Christ in so many countries whose worship of their Savior must be underground and under threat of death or imprisonment. As the body of Christ, we can get involved. Organizations like Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, Persecution offer great resources on how to get involved.
But we also need to speak up. To require accountability once again of our politicians, of our own alliances. Especially in areas of military armament and aid of regimes that do not permit the freedom to choose one’s own faith in God.
If we do not speak up for accountability on freedom of faith issues, the day may come when such freedom is no longer a given for our nations either. To learn more about these issues, Afghanistan itself, my own website and blog (www.jeanettewindle.com) has a list of recommended reading and other material.