“In recent centuries they have tried to convince us that religion was one of the main causes of division and lack of peace and that it was, therefore, necessary to put it aside. Where can we go to seek peace, then? In politics? In ideologies? In economy? It is possible only in the Kingdom of God, a kingdom in which I arrived as a pilgrim of peace in Afghanistan, a country at war for forty years.” This is the testimony expressed in a letter sent to Fides News Agency by Fr. Giovanni Scalese, a Barnabite priest, responsible for the Afghan Missio Sui Iuris.
In the Asian country, where Islam is the State religion and conversion to other faiths is seen as a crime of apostasy, the Catholic presence must be limited to carrying out charitable actions and the spiritual assistance of the international community. But, explains Fr. Scalese, the commitment of Catholics in Afghanistan is above all to pray ceaselessly for peace: “Two years ago, on October 13, 2017, at the end of the centenary of the Fatima apparitions, we consecrated Afghanistan to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This year, on Palm Sunday, we planted, in front of the Mission Church, the Olive Tree of Peace, from Nazareth, the place where the Word of God became flesh and the Prince of Peace put his roots among us. Finally, last July, I personally went on a pilgrimage to the National Marian Shrine of Oziornoje, in Kazakhstan, to invoke the Queen of Peace so that she can work in Afghanistan, Asia and in the world.”
Meanwhile, after the failure of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban movement, the country is experiencing a new escalation of violence. Among the latest episodes, a raid on Sunday 22 September by Afghan special forces, with the support of US aircraft, on the hideouts of the Taliban, caused the death of at least 40 civilians gathered to celebrate a wedding.
In Afghanistan, the Catholic presence was admitted at the beginning of the twentieth century as a simple spiritual assistance within the Italian Embassy in Kabul and was then elevated to “Missio Sui Iuris” in 2002 by John Paul II. Today the mission continues to be based on the diplomatic structure and is entrusted to Barnabite father Giovanni Scalese. In the Afghan capital there are also the sisters Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the inter-congregational association Pro Children of Kabul.