St. Pope John Paul II erected the Catholic mission territory in May 2002. Its superior is Italian Fr. Giovanni M. Scalese, a priest of the Barnabite religious order. He has led the Catholic Church in Afghanistan since January 2015.
Scalese, reached by phone on Aug. 17, declined to comment on the current situation due to safety concerns.
Caritas Italiana, a Catholic charity working in Afghanistan, said in a statement over the weekend that the instability of the situation was causing fears to grow “about the possibility of maintaining a presence even in the future, as well as for the safety of the few Afghans of Christian belief.”
The Catholic Sant’Egidio community called on the European community on Tuesday to provide refuge for Afghans attempting to flee the country and to not deport Afghans seeking asylum in Europe back to Afghanistan.
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“Europe must act to guarantee the protection of those fleeing Afghanistan reconquered by the Taliban,” the community said in a statement co-signed by the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the representative body of the Waldensian and Methodists in Italy.
“In these hours, thousands of men, women and children risk their lives simply for believing in the values of democracy, freedom to express themselves and to study,” the groups said.
At the end of July, two Catholic sisters of For the Children of Kabul in Afghanistan spoke to the Italian magazine Mondo e Missione. The sisters said they were “very worried about the near future.”
“We live day by day, with serenity,” Sr. Shahnaz Bhatti from Pakistan and Sr. Teresia Crasta from India told the magazine.
“Our families are worried about us: every time they see the image of some attack on TV they fear for our safety,” they added. “But we sleep peacefully, here we have many friends and for the rest we entrust ourselves to God.”
The two sisters, who expected a third sister to arrive in Afghanistan in early August, operate a school for 50 kids ages 6 to 12 with mild intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome.
Founded in 2004, For the Children of Kabul takes its name from St. Pope John Paul II’s appeal to save the children of Afghanistan during his Christmas Day blessing in 2001.
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Sanavio, the association’s president, told CNA Aug. 17 that the day center has faced many closures over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and had only re-opened “with difficulty” a few weeks ago.
“But now, for security reasons, it has had to close again,” he said. “The children all have their families and are safe.”
The center is located in the Taimani neighborhood in north-western Kabul. Bhatti told Mondo e Missione July 30 that despite the risks, they chose to set up the school there and not in the safer “green zone,” which is close to embassies and government buildings, because they wanted to live “among ordinary people.”
“Here in the house we have a small chapel where we pray daily, while for Mass we have to go to the Italian embassy, usually once a week,” she said, according to the magazine. “Outside, however, we cannot profess the faith, even if everyone knows that we are Christians, they respect us and appreciate the way in which we welcome anyone in need.”
“This is a wounded country, violence is the rule here and life is worth nothing. The blood still flows in the streets as if it were water,” the Catholic sister said.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.