Afghan refugees – 23 August 2021

This picture is a diptych. On the left are Afghani people – men, a woman and a child. They stand facing out of the picture, looking at us. Do we notice? Do we care? They are also moving (visually) from left to right, from the ‘steppes’ of Afghanistan to the cities of Pakistan. The hatched lines represent a border that they must cross. On the right a man raises his hands in resistance and rejection. The people wanting entry are not welcome.

This illustration can sit in our minds along side the many visual images we have seen in the past week of Afghani people attempting to leave Kabul in great fear. We can ponder all that we have seen as we hear various governments discuss what level of commitment can be given to receiving refugees.

The illustration here is by Zehra Newab. (She is a multidisciplinary artist from Karachi.) It working It depicts the reluctance/refusal of Pakistan to receive Afghani refugees. Many had crossed the border between the two countries, only to be re-patriated, often under the cover of darkness. Having become refugees once in order to find a place of safety, only to be returned, these same people are now on the move again.


I was in Kabul when the tanks first rolled out on its rutted streets, a dead body in their path marking the demise of a fragile state. I was in Jamrud when they first came, carrying their wealth in woven woolen khurjeen balanced across pack animals, babies straddled across donkeys, women veiled, children bedraggled and barefoot. We – the citizens of a state which collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency to destroy their country – enjoyed the ethnic jewelry and antique fabrics which were sold across the country in expensive boutiques — the last bits of an old life sold off to finance another life in the misery of refugee camps huddled amidst dust and despair.

Feryal Ali Gauhar, 2016 – describing Afghani refugees arriving in Pakistan,

many of whom were re-patriated.



God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19


Merciful God, we pray to you for all the men, women and children who have died after leaving their homelands in search of a better life.

Though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is known, loved and cherished.

May we never forget them, but honour their sacrifice with deeds more than words. We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope.

Just as you never abandoned your Son as he was brought to a safe place by Mary and Joseph, so now be close to these, your sons and daughters, through our tenderness and protection.

In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.

Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centredness.

Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters.

May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away, where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.

Pope Francis