Afghan refugees exploited

With declining foreign aid from governments the world over, someone needs to step in to make up the shortfall. That is why not-for-profit agencies like Shelter Now International, a relief group working with refugees in Afghanistan and elsewhere, are so important in restoring hope and enriching the lives of the oppressed and displaced the world over. Why then is SNI no longer active in Afghanistan? Why were they expelled from its borders and some of its front-line relief workers imprisoned?

The official reason given by the Taliban was that the workers were propagating Christianity, converting Muslim refugees, a crime punisable by death in Afghanistan. The question is: Are accusations by the propaganda-rich Taliban accurate? Does it really matter?

The mission statement on SNI’s Web site includes the general remarks of compassion and genuine concern for the less fortunate. It also goes on to state they will "be instruments of God’s love." Consider this along with the seizure of Christian literature translated in the local Dari dialect and the problem becomes evident.

While altruistic pursuits are noble and selfless, they don’t seem to be present within the Afghan ranks of SNI. It is one thing to help others because your personal beliefs encourage that kind of giving spirit. It is another thing entirely to prey on the weakest of the weak in an attempt to gain new adherents to your belief system. Children, generally seen as the most vulnerable and impressionable members of Western society, are heavily protected against influence and manipulation. In areas such as Afghanistan, the same type of protection from persuasion and manipulation of the weak and impressionable should be in place. Whether it’s a pimp exploiting the children of Calgary or a relief worker converting Afghan refugees, the fact remains that the weak are being exploited by those in positions of power and trust. A relief worker should not be a missionary.

To further complicate the issue, the American SNI Web site lists among its financial supporters the government and government agencies. This makes the actions of its overseas workers that much more irresponsible. Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian taxpayers are just as valued as those who have a crucifix affixed in their homes, are they not? Why then are their tax dollars, rumoured to fund health care, education and infrastructure, being used to convert downtrodden refugees half the world away to a belief system they do not support? I doubt there are any government funded groups in Central America converting the less fortunate to Islam or Judaism.

It is truly a sad state of affairs when governments begin withdrawing monetary aid to those who need it. We who have so much should be able to spare what it takes to instill hope in those who have none. This is not the case, and not-for-profit organizations have nobly stepped in to pick up the slack. Equally sad, however, is the exploitative, opportunistic notion that refugee camps full of malnourished, emotionally shattered individuals are fair game to religious zealots looking to propagate their faith. Altruism is a beautiful thing, but exploitation is hideous, especially when it is carried out under the guise of selflessness.

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