Samaritan's Purse Aids Afghan Refugees
January 1, 2002 - Families huddled in Afghanistan along the border with Iran said that they did not understand why their country was under attack.
by Tom Layton
After fleeing their homes, some families trudged for three weeks across a barren and dangerous country about the size of Texas, only to find that Iran had closed its border with Afghanistan. At the border 2,000 families settled in two camps, one controlled by the Taliban, the other controlled by the Northern Alliance. Neither group had resources to help the refugees, who were cold, hungry and in many cases barefoot.
Samaritan's Purse was one of the first nongovernmental organizations to reach the refugees, arriving just a few weeks before the snow. Working through contacts in Iran, Samaritan's Purse-Canada provided thousands of blankets and shoes, hundreds of stoves, and tons of food for refugees in both camps.
"The refugees are grateful that we've delivered aid, but they are overwhelmed by everything," said the Reverend Sean Campbell, executive director of Samaritan's Purse-Canada. Mr. Campbell spent several days ministering in the area.
One man told Mr. Campbell that bombs killed two of his daughters. Another man described neighbors' houses exploding. "We don't know why America is attacking us," several said. Most refugees knew little or nothing about the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
"They've been told that America has decided to attack them," Mr. Campbell said. "They don't know why. Whether they were in the Taliban camp or the Northern Alliance camp, they could only tell us that Americans were trying to kill them and destroy their faith."
Because the refugees believe that their faith is under attack, relief workers must be careful about presenting Christianity. For now, workers simply want to demonstrate the love of Christ.
"As time goes on, opportunities will come so that we can tell what we believe," Mr. Campbell said. "It will be difficult—Afghans are wary of Christians and of the West. Our long-term objective is to communicate our faith. That day will come, but it will take a while."