I must give an alternative view to David Silliman’s sentiments in the letter, ”Time to withdraw completely,” which, on one hand, seems well placed. It sounds like we both grieve deeply over another senseless loss in that country. Certainly deep tragedy can never be forgotten and violence will never be an appropriate tool for progress. But I do not view the issues from a political, economic, power nor perhaps even prudent perspective. My faith, so recently celebrating that life can overcome death and knowing that what some mean for evil God can use for good, compels me to return to Afghanistan and continue the healing that is so needed there.
And surprisingly, in spite of the military withdrawal, there seems to be an upsurge of likeminded professionals who share that vision and are entering to serve. Just last month, my wife and I worked and planned, laughed and played together in Kabul with those to whom David refers. We held and cared for their delightful baby. Many times I have walked with the slain doctor on the steps where he died, likely greeted with “Salom,” the guard who shot him. I ponder that I could easily have been gunned down with him. We wail upon hearing of their deaths. Nevertheless we train doctors there; we count them as friends.
The folks we know are compassionate, eager to serve the underserved, keen to be excellent in their profession, hopeful for the future, willing to risk their lives to make their country better, strong in their faith. They, too, are wounded by the events there, troubled by the behavior of the few, deeply concerned about the future of their children. There is no one there who has not been directly affected by tragedy. So I am eager to return, to stand with them in their loss, to assure them that they are not alone, to affirm that fear and violence will not win, and that the path upon which they travel is a worthy one indeed. And, not the least, they need to be reminded that “neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present or the future ... will be able to separate [them] from the love of God” we both desire to honor. Perhaps it is time for military withdrawal, but an insurgency of compassion is needed now more than ever.
Jonathan E. Bishop, M.D.
Past Director, Hope Family Medicine Afghanistan