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NOTE: Thank you to Ryan Denison for writing today’s Daily Article. He is the Denison Forum Senior Fellow for Theology and has written more than four hundred articles for Denison Forum.
The United Nations General Assembly began this week in New York City and it didn’t take long to start making waves. But while a number of issues—ranging from climate change to Covid—have dominated the discussion, the storyline I’ll be watching most closely revolves around the Taliban seeking to replace Afghanistan’s current representative with one from the new regime.
Currently, the former Afghan government is the only authority from the country credentialed by the UN, meaning that the Taliban is currently locked out even though they are clearly in control of the country. As such, the people representing Afghanistan to the world have been largely forced to flee their own nation.
The UN has said that they are unlikely to make a decision during the current session, though it’s possible something could happen later this year. However, recognizing a representative from the Taliban would, in the eyes of many, be akin to recognizing and legitimizing their government—and that has left many nations more than a little wary.
As such, the UN is using the status as a carrot of sorts to try and entice the terrorist organization turned ruling government to make some changes on how they operate. Chief among those changes is addressing what remains a concerning record of human rights violations, both before taking power and in the weeks since.
Amnesty International, for example, outlined earlier this week how the “Taliban are steadily dismantling the human rights gains of the last twenty years . . . including targeted killings of civilians and surrendered soldiers and the blocking of humanitarian supplies in the Panhshir Valley, which constitute crimes under international law.” Moreover, they warn that “restrictions have also been reimposed on women, freedom of expression, and civil society.”
In short, the Taliban has yet to show a genuine interest in governing according to the standards by which most nations are judged. And while other countries that have UN representation are also guilty of similar crimes—China among the most prominent—the new leaders of Afghanistan are being held to an understandably high standard (at least for now).
“Dialogue could be fruitful”
That the Taliban is encountering resistance in their quest to be recognized as the official government of Afghanistan should not come as a surprise. That they want to be legitimized on the global level, however, is an even more important development.
Such a desire demonstrates that their goals are not necessarily the same as we often think about when it comes to radical Islam and terrorist activity. While certain groups, such as al-Qaeda, are often focused on attacking western countries in defense of Islam—or at least that’s what they claim—the Taliban have long had a different objective in mind. For them, Afghanistan is not just a launching pad for jihad. It’s home, and it has been for centuries.
While many of their ideals are aligned with other terrorist organizations, they legitimately desire to be seen by the world as the ones in charge of their homeland. It’s why they can state with all sincerity that they believe “It is the responsibility of the United Nations to recognize our government (and) for other countries, including European, Asian, and Islamic countries, to have diplomatic relations with us.”
That the world doesn’t seem to agree is of lesser importance than that they see themselves as worthy of that level of legitimacy.
And there is, perhaps, some logic behind the idea that they should be treated as more than usurpers. As the leadership from Qatar noted, “Boycotting them would only lead to polarization and reactions, whereas dialogue could be fruitful.”
If the Taliban show signs that global recognition is more important than re-establishing their old ways of governance, then perhaps there is hope that the situation for the Afghani people could begin to improve. However, it is uncertain what that would mean for their relationship with other radical Islamic groups—most of whom do not tend to look kindly upon compromising what they perceive to be the only way to correctly live out their faith. Stranger things have happened, though, and we can (and should) be praying that they are willing to make those changes.
But it’s hard to pray about what we’re not thinking about, and therein lies the problem for many of us.
What to do when you lose spiritual focus
I suspect that for most Americans, the situation in Afghanistan has already begun to work its way to the periphery of our collective awareness. We know it’s not good, but unless something abnormally bad happens—a high bar to clear for that region at the moment—then we’re probably not going to give it much thought.
And the same is true for other areas of our lives as well. That’s just part of what it means to be fallen, finite humans.
Fortunately, we serve a perfect, infinite God and, if we’ll take the time to stay in touch with him, he will direct our focus where it needs to go. And when it comes to praying in a way that aligns our hearts and minds with his, giving him that authority is essential.
So take some time right now to ask God to help you see the world around you through his eyes today. Ask him to make the things he wants you to be praying about stand out in a way that’s hard to ignore. Ask him to bring to mind people and places that need to go to the top of your prayer list. Then stand back and silently give him room to work.
When giving God the authority to direct your thoughts becomes a way of life, you’ll start to notice a real difference in how you pray and how you perceive the world around you:
- Seemingly innocuous Facebook posts will start to look like requests for prayer.
- Conversations will take on an added layer of depth.
- People you haven’t thought about for years will pop into your mind without any explanation other than that God wanted you to think about them.
- And your interactions with coworkers, neighbors, family members, and anyone else the Lord brings across your path will seem like opportunities rather than obligations.
In short, when God is the one in charge of how you experience and interpret life throughout the course of your day, then every day takes on a new level of purpose and meaning.
It won’t happen unless we are intentional about asking God to make it happen, though.
Have you made that request today?