Prayers for the Women of Afghanistan

Photo Credit: Lynsey Addario, National Geographic Dec. 2010

So tonight I had a bunch of things that I wanted to get done, but after dinner I decided to glance through the new issue of National Geographic magazine that came today instead. My parents have always had a subscription to NG and I’ve always loved looking at all the amazing photography, so my dad got Cam and I a subscription when we moved to South Carolina. The December issue was no exception, and there are many breathtakingly beautiful photos. However, one article struck me so deeply that I literally feel like I can’t do anything else until I say something about this. The article is called “Veiled Rebellion,” and it was written by Elizabeth Rubin with photos by Lynsey Addario, and it discusses the treatment of women in Afghanistan. I’ll admit, even though we have many troops over there, I really don’t think about Afghanistan all that much, so this article was a real wake up call. While I’m not going to summarize the article since it’s posted online, it basically talks about the extreme brutality and oppression that Afghan women face on a daily basis, and it’s just heartbreaking. Violent abuse of women by family members is all too common, so much so that thousands of women each year try to set themselves on fire to commit suicide because they feel that is their only way to escape. The story features a photo of an 11 year old girl covered in burns who covered herself in gasoline and set herself on fire. Just writing that sentence makes me want to cry. The fact that there is a place on this Earth where an 11 year old girl would feel so hopeless that the only option she had is to light herself on fire is just sickening. The article talks about Afghan culture and why these attitudes toward women exist, and one fact was mentioned in the printed article (I’m not sure if it’s in the web version also) is that 8 out of 10 violent attacks against women are committed by someone in the woman’s family. Coming from my perspective of being brought up in a loving, supportive family, in a country that values equality, personal freedom, and human life, that fact that just dumbfounds me. Women in Afghanistan literally cannot do anything without a man, and while times are very slowly starting to change and some women are refusing to live this life of captivity, it seems that the majority of women are not so lucky. When I was reading this article, I couldn’t help but to keep thinking why? Why would anyone ever treat another human being like this? How can a culture view the life of a women with such disregard? Why were those women born there, while I was born here? I think that’s a big thing that struck me, why was I so lucky to be given the life I have where halfway around the world there is someone my age who was likely married at age 12, gets beaten by her husband, doesn’t know how to read, and has absolutely no freedom? Why? I just kept thinking these women could just as easily be me, my mother, my sister, my friends, and potentially my daughter one day, and just because they live in Afghanistan, and I live in America, my life is no more valuable then theirs and no one should ever be treated like this. I started wondering what could be done to help these women, and this problem just seems so monumentally hopeless to me. While poverty and illiteracy and problems around the world, those problems seem almost easier to wrap my mind around finding a solution, whereas in Afghanistan, you not only have the issues of poverty and illiteracy (only 18% of women can read), but you’re dealing with a social structure that’s so restrictive it seems almost impossible to break through. If women try to leave their abusive husbands, they are likely to be attacked or killed. I can’t help but think that even if you try to bring resources to these women, but how are they going to access them when they are being held captive? So while it seems like there is really no solution, I had to remind myself that the Lord is bigger than any problem we humans can create, and while helping women living in constant despair in Afghanistan may seem hopeless, Luke 1:37 says that “…with God nothing shall be impossible.” (KJV) For whatever reason, the Lord had me read this article tonight, and has really put heavy on my heart how great the needs of these women are, so I am definitely going to investigate other ways to help, and I will be posting about any organizations or ministries that I come across. (If you know of any, let me know!) But for tonight, I am praying for Afghanistan–praying for the girls and women who are being treated in this way that the Lord would grant them peace and protection in the presence of fear and oppression that they live with on a daily basis, praying for strength and courage for the women who are choosing to be bold and take risks to bring education and freedoms to their country and create positive change, praying for the men that the Lord would break through years of cultural indoctrination of violence that makes them believe that this behavior is justified, and praying for all the troops that are currently over in Afghanistan, as well as their families that are missing them here at home. I am so thankful to God for my many many blessings, but my heart feels heavy tonight, and I am going to continue to keep Afghanistan in my prayers. (I would highly encourage anyone to read the article and look through the photo gallery)

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)