MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY AND 14 DISABLED CHILDREN FROM KABUL ARRIVE AT ROME AIRPORT

MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY AND 14 DISABLED CHILDREN FROM KABUL ARRIVE AT ROME AIRPORT

(CNA Rome Newsroom, Aug 26, 2021)

Religious sisters from the Missionaries of Charity and 14 disabled children from an orphanage in Afghanistan arrived safely on Wednesday at Rome’s international airport.

A Catholic priest and five sisters from the order founded by Mother Teresa arrived on one of two evacuation flights from Kabul that landed in Rome on Aug. 25 carrying a total of 277 people.

Fr. Giovanni Scalese, the ecclesiastical superior of the Catholic mission in Afghanistan, also arrived on the flight. He spent eight years in Kabul, offering daily Mass for foreign residents in the city at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, located inside of the Italian embassy.

“I would never have returned to Italy without these children,” Fr. Scalese told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“We could not leave them there.”

The children, aged between six and 20 years old, were residents of an orphanage founded in 2006 by the Missionaries of Charity in Kabul, which has now been forced to close due to the Taliban’s takeover of the city.

Sr. Bhatti Shahnaz, another Catholic religious sister who arrived in Rome on the evacuation flight, also worked with disabled children in Afghanistan with her community, the Sisters of Charity of St. Jeanne Antide.

“The 50 intellectually disabled children we looked after are still there,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Accompanying this article was a photo and description from Fr. Doriano Vincenzo De Luca from his Facebook page: (1) Doriano Vincenzo De Luca | Facebook

Fr. De Luca: The small Catholic community in #Afghanistan arrived in Rome. They arrived yesterday afternoon in Fiumicino with one of the many flights from Kabul Father Giovanni Scalese, five nuns and fourteen disabled children.

HOLY SEE EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN

HOLY SEE EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN OVER CRISIS IN AFGHANISTAN

Respect for human dignity and inclusive dialogue marked two key concerns brought up by the Holy See representative in Geneva at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council, “On the serious human rights concerns and situation in Afghanistan.”

Vatican News staff writer

The Holy See continues to follow the developments in Afghanistan “with great attention and deep concern,” and has renewed the appeal launched by Pope Francis on August 15 calling on all people to pray with him “to the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.”

Only in this way, he said at the time, “can the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their own homes, and live in peace and security, in total mutual respect.” (Vatican media: EUCOM Afghan Evacuation Operations  (Public Domain)

This message was reiterated on Tuesday morning by Msgr. John Putzer, chargé d’affaires of the Holy See’s Permanent Mission to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva. Speaking at the 31st Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the Vatican representative urged all parties “to recognize and uphold the respect for the human dignity and fundamental rights of every person, including the right to life, the freedom of religion, the right to freedom of movement and the right to peaceful assembly.”

“At this critical time,” he added, “it is of vital importance to support the success and safety of humanitarian efforts within the country, in a spirit of international solidarity, so as not to lose the progress that has been made, especially in the areas of healthcare and education.” He expressed hopes for a “peaceful and swift resolution to the ongoing tensions,” and the conviction that “inclusive dialogue” represents “the most powerful tool” to achieve the goal of peace.

In conclusion, the statement urged the entire international community to “move from declaration to action” by welcoming refugees ” in a spirit of human fraternity.”

According to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, there are 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan, comprising the largest protracted refugee population in Asia, and the second-largest refugee population in the world. In recent weeks, thousands have been attempting to flee the country, especially at Kabul airport through the airlifts underway for foreigners and Afghans. Surrounding countries are worried about an exodus across their borders given the current tensions.

 

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

I took these photos of the front page of today’s online edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper. I had a huge intake of breath and my eyes filled with tears when I saw the photo of these three beautiful little children under the caption “Small gestures of solidarity”! How many tears have we shed these days!

The article highlighted how international organizations that once worked on the ground in Afghanistan can no longer do so. It spoke to how dioceses and other institutions and organizations in Italy are getting ready to step in and offer to receive Afghani refugees and offer assistance in their stead.

How much can any one country do in the face of such a colossal tragedy? No matter how overwhelming the demand will seem or the numbers of people seeking asylum, countries, dioceses, churches, religious and civil and humanitarian organizations – must at least try to help.

How many more children are there whom we will never see in photos? How many will be successful in getting out of their native country?   How many will be forced to stay and to perhaps live unspeakably horrible lives, if they are allowed to live!

Where are these three siblings today? Where will they be tomorrow?

I so wanted to reach out and hug them, to hold them, to say something that would bring an expression of hope to their faces. But I feel bereft, unable to do anything in the face of such tragedy, such anguish.

 

 

JESUITS, MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN

Who knows how many other men and women religious from other countries live and work in Afghanistan and are now stranded there or attempting to leave! Even if we do not know names, let’s spiritually adopt a priest or nun or brother who might be desperately needing our prayers in this moment!  The Lord will know who they are!

JESUITS, MISSIONARIES OF CHARITY STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN

Two Jesuits and four Missionary of Charity (MC) nuns are stranded in Afghanistan, as the country and its capital fell to the Taliban. Afghans as well as foreigners are trying to flee the country amid pandemonium and chaos at Kabul airport.

By Vatican News staff writer

Two Jesuits stranded in strife-torn Afghanistan have sought prayers as the Taliban militants took control of the troubled south-east Asian nation.  “Thank you for your continuous prayers for our safety. The way the situation is changing in the country, it is anyone’s imagination … safety does not make sense here. It is a chaotic situation,” Indian priest Father Jerome Sequeira, the country head of the Jesuit mission in Afghanistan, wrote in a message to his friends and colleagues.

Afghanistan fell to the Taliban after the United States ended its 20 years of operations there.  A relative calm reigned in the Afghan capital Kabul on August 16, a day after its president fled and the Taliban installed themselves in the presidential palace.  However, Kabul airport was a scene of pandemonium and roads leading to it were clogged with traffic and people, as thousands scrambled to flee the country in panic.

KABUL (Vatican media – AFP or licensors)

Missionaries of Charity nuns
Four Missionaries of Charity (MC) nuns are also stranded in Afghanistan and will probably be moved to their countries, UCA News reported.  “Our two priests are stuck in Afghanistan and are waiting for their evacuation,” said a Jesuit priest based in the Indian capital New Delhi. “We have also suspended our mission in Afghanistan indefinitely as we are not sure when the situation will improve,” he said.  A senior nun at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in eastern India’s Kolkata city confirmed that four of their nuns are in Afghanistan, including an Indian.  She gave no details of the other three, fearing for their safety.  The Missionaries of Charity, which St. Teresa of Kolkata founded in 1950, arrived in Kabul in 2004 for humanitarian work.

The two Jesuit priests and the Missionary of Charity nun are among many Indians waiting for the Indian government’s evacuation flights to get them out of the country.

Fr. Sequeira in Kabul
Father Sequeira, who works for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), had gone to Kabul airport to take the 10:45 flight to India. “It resembled a chaotic railway station,” he told Matters India August 16 evening, speaking from “a secure place” in the city.  He said he came to the country in 2006 and never in the past 15 years has he seen such a breakdown of system.

He narrated how he had to drag his luggage as large crowds and vehicles jammed the roads. “Thousands of people are trying to flee. I managed to reach the second gate but then Taliban were shooting in the air and trying to control the crowd. Before, my reaching, thousands of people had managed to enter the airport building but the entire airport staff had abandoned the place. Without any security check and boarding passes people had gone into the flight,” Father Sequeira said.

He referred to images on social media showing people clinging on to a US military aircraft on the tarmac as it tried to take off.  “In this chaotic situation no flight will land at the moment. Seeing this senseless situation, no country will dare to fly to Kabul at the moment. It was a terrifying experience,” said the Jesuit priest who works for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).

Fr. Rodrigues in Bamiyan
The other Jesuit Father Robert Rodrigues from southern India’s Karnataka state is stuck in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.  He managed to get inside Bamiyan airport in the evening on August 15, checked in and was awaiting a United Nations flight to land, which would fly him to Kabul some 25 minutes away.  Meanwhile, the situation changed dramatically and the entire airport security personnel just abandoned the airport.

Father Sequeira said Father Rodrigues is safe and was “much better and relaxed” on August 16.  “We are seeking possible ways to evacuate him from Bamiyan to Kabul through the help of UN agencies,” Father Sequeira said.

Taliban taking over system

According to him, the Taliban is busy in occupying government systems and putting their own persons. “They are not harming the civilians at the moment but it will come once they have fully captured all the systems of the country. They have the list of all organizations and profile too. In some places they have started door-to-door enquiries about the personnel of the organization,” Father Sequeira’s message explained.

He said the Jesuit Refugee Service has indefinitely suspended its activities in Afghanistan “and all are hibernating in their homes or communities.”  “All flights are cancelled and it all depends on the agreement between UN bodies and the Taliban.” He said the entire JRS body is putting all efforts to evacuate him and Father Rodrigues. “At the moment, I am safe,” Father Sequeira wrote.

The JRS country head lamented how the international community could have given up the country to the Taliban after investing and establishing so much in 20 years.  “With the way the Taliban took over provinces, all thought it would take some 90 days for them to reach Kabul. But they swept over the capital in ten days,” he added.  According to him, the Taliban militants have taken control of 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Meanwhile, the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed worries that the upheaval caused by the Taliban takeover is compromising the country’s other battle against the coronavirus.  It said the chaos has slowed the vaccination programme.  It is concerned over the unfolding safety and humanitarian needs in the country, including risk of disease outbreaks and rise in Covid-19 transmission.

14 years of Jesuit mission in Afghanistan
Father Stany D’Souza, president of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia, said both the Jesuits are safe, adding they are in touch with them.  Until last month, the Jesuits had planned to continue their mission in Afghanistan.

Saint Pope John Paul II established a mission sui juris for Afghanistan on May 16, 2002, and entrusted it to the Barnabite fathers.  Two years later the Jesuits ventured into the country to help the Afghan people rebuild their war-ravaged nation through education.

The JRS launched programmes to educate the youth, especially the internally displaced persons, returnees from neighboring countries and other vulnerable sections.  The Jesuits have trained more than 300 young teachers and through them were educating more than 25,000 children in four provinces. Young girls were major beneficiaries of the Jesuit mission in a country still haunted by memories of the Taliban’s anti-female attitude before it was toppled in 2001.  The Indian Jesuits were also involved in livelihood interventions.

They too had their troubles with the Taliban. On June 2, 2014, suspected Taliban fighters abducted JRS director Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was accompanying teachers on a visit to a school for refugees in the village of Sohadat, some 500 miles west of Kabul.  The priest from southern India’s Tamil Nadu state was held handcuffed during most of his 8-month captivity. His release on February 22, 2015 was secured with the help of the Indian government.

However, the Jesuits’ links with Afghanistan go back more than 400 years.  In 1581, Mughal Emperor Akbar took along a Jesuit priest from Agra in northern India to Kabul.  A year later, in 1582, Jesuit Brother Bento de Goes stopped at Kabul on his way to China.  But there was no lasting Jesuit presence in the country.   (Source: Matters India, UCA News)