Disappointment at Christmas

Disappointment at Christmas

What a week.

On Monday our Village Carol service went really well. Lots of people attended, the Hot Chocolate bar was a massive hit, and there was an amazing and quite unexpected answer to prayer afterwards.

So I came home feeling demob happy. I slumped on the sofa, did a bit of internet browsing and realised that there were cheap tickets to see our football team play that Thursday night. Before I’d really thought what I was doing I booked tickets for me and my lads and started plotting what time we’;d need to leave, where we would go for tea and how much we could afford to spend at the club shop.

Tuesday came and rumours began that there was Covid in the camp and the match might be abandoned. Not to worry I said, they’re sure to be able to field a side, we’ll go regardless.

Wednesday I was feeling less confident. We were checking the newsfeeds and more and more players were testing positive. Then at 10 o’clock on Wednesday night the game was cancelled. We heard from someone on a WhatsApp. Caroline began searching online, I switched on Sky Sports News and waited impatiently for the advert break to be over. And then confirmation. Everyone was incredibly gutted. Tears flowed, we went through the five stages of grief, and then drifted off to bed, bitterly disappointed.

The next morning I had a school assembly. We were doing a Pop Up Nativity and the message was that, that first Christmas wasn’t perfect; there was no silent night. Much like life, it was noisy and dirty and chaotic. I told the children about the football match. The shock, the tears, the frustration. It was one little example of how life doesn’t always go to plan and that even Christmas isn’t immune to disappointment.

I feel like that’s something we need to tell each other every year as the pressure to have a perfect Christmas gets more and more intense.

One advertising slogan this year is “You can taste when it’s Waitrose“. It’s a brilliant slogan really, playing as it does to all the Christmas card hopes and fears we have at this time of year.

I don’t doubt Waitrose on the quality of their food. No doubt you can tell the difference when you eat a hand reared this or a port infused that. But if the Waitrose food is eaten alone because the family couldn’t make it due to Covid restrictions, or the family has made it but has fallen out and is now not speaking, or if the family has made it, and is talking but is painfully aware that they’re one person short due to bereavement, then that food will taste like ash in the mouth. (albeit very expensive, Waitrose sourced, Nordic Fir ash).

The Christmas story accepts that life is full of disappointment. It understands that things happen, plans change, games get postponed, flights are cancelled and hopes are dashed.

More than that, the Christmas story takes place in a context of terrible darkness and sin. The people are walking in darkness. The religious leaders have lost hope. The country is in ruins and the sadistic government is about to undertake a policy of infanticide which will leave mothers and fathers wailing in agony. As the song goes,

‘There’s a world outside your window, 

and it’s a world of dread and fear

Where the only water flowing 

is the bitter sting of tears’

But it is into this heartbreaking and hopeless world that an angel comes saying,

‘You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’

And it is into this heartbreaking and hopeless world that a prophet declares: 

‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)

Our Christmas message, whether preached at a service or written in a few words in a Christmas card, cannot be a quick fix. He has not come to reschedule football matches or overcome Covid restrictions. He will not neutralise every disappointment, we will still weep.

But he has chosen to come into our world. He has established himself as the inextinguishable light in the darkness. He has come to sinners and sat beside them in the muck of life. He is Emmanuel and he is Hope for the hopeless; the antidote to deep disappointment.

The Christmas Minstrel

The Christmas Minstrel

Preparing a Christmas sermon I came across this line from the poem Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Being no great lover of poetry I wouldn’t claim to have the expertise to interpret what Tennyson was trying to say, but permit me to share what he says to me.

To me Ring Out Wild Bells is a humanist poem in the best sense of the word. It has an optimistic view of humanity grounded in a belief that humanity as Imago Dei, God’s Vice Regent on earth; princes of creation. Which is not to say that it’s naive. Tennyson is more famous for writing the poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. In that poem he describes the grim picture of 600 men riding into carnage, reeling from,

‘the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.’

But while Tennyson knew very well ‘the want, the care and the sin’ of this world it didn’t stop him believing in man’s ability to be better nor of resolving to ‘ring out those crimes and ring in better times’.

But who is the ‘fuller minstrel’? I think Tennyson is talking about (what we would call today) ‘being the best we can be’. But as a Christian thinking of the incarnation could Christmas itself has some claim to be a fuller minstrel?

Although we sing ‘how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given’, Christmas is actually a pretty musical time. On being told that God would intervene in the world, Zechariah sang. So did Mary. Simeon rejoiced. So did Anna. We sing every year that, ‘while shepherds watched the flocks by night all seated on the ground’, suddenly there ‘appeared a shining throng of angels praising God and thus addressed their joyful song’. If you find yourself absent-mindedly humming the songs you’ve heard while Christmas shopping you will be able to imagine how the shepherds might have sung that first Christmas Carol long after they’d seen the baby Jesus. So at this time of year many are asking that Christmas be our fuller minstrel, coming into the cold dark winter and filling us with hope.

But maybe Tennyson means something more still. Why shouldn’t we consider Christ himself the minstrel? Isn’t that after all what the psalmist is alluding to in Psalm 45 when he declares: ‘my heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer’ or what he explicitly states in Psalm 40 when he praises God for putting ‘a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God”?

I have a friend, a new Christian, who is extremely pessimistic about the future. Suddenly aware of Jesus and eager for his return, my friend sees everything in terms of the end days and to be fair there is plenty around at the moment that if we were in Jesus’ position we would be eager to come back to judge.

I’m aware that it would be wrong of me to counsel him that the end is still a long way off. After all Christ will come like a thief in the night and nobody knows when that will be. Who is to say he will not come between me typing this and you reading it? (Although if you’ve read this, this sentence is defunct!). Nor should I pretend to my friend that everything in this world is hunky dory. We are surrounded by greed and callousness. Moreover ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’

And yet Christmas is our reminder that our ‘fuller minstrel’ has come. His song has begun and can’t be undone. Light has shone in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. So I want to say to my friend, and to you too, that while Christmas is not everything (we wait for Easter) it is not nothing.

So fear not. The fuller minstrel has come. For some he has filled the deadening silence of depression with music. For others he has drowned out the noise of fear. Still others hear his music above the siren song of the world. To all who believe he has put a new song in their mouths.

So with that song on our lips, may we resolve with Tennyson to,

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Quiet Please

Quiet Please

Sunday night’s Match of the Day opens in Manchester. It’s the weekend before Armistice Day and time to observe the act of Remembrance. The players stand around the centre circle where a carpet bearing a poppy is unfurled. The Band Sergeant Dave Pickles from the Duke of Lancaster’s regiment prepares to play the Last Post. 

Suddenly large parts of the crowd burst into noisy applause. The commentator makes no comment. Indeed there’s a sense of  approval that it is being ‘well observed’. And then we rush on to the action lest anyone actually focus on the important over the immediate. This is 21st century remembrance. 

Not being a fan of either Manchester club the result wasn’t important to me but the clapping really bothered me. Why was it happening? What does it mean that we no longer observe silence at football? When did we decide silence isn’t golden?

Well, longer ago than we might realise. In 1997 as Diana’s hearse was driven through London, observers burst into spontaneous applause. A few years later fans at Old Trafford and Maine Road clapped as they remembered their heroes’ George Best and Alan Ball respectively. When Gary Speed died there was some confusion with the club manager in one dugout applauding while the other remained silent. Since then it has been customary to clap a departed player or club official.

We might have thought Remembrance was different but thousands broke into applause at Old Trafford on Sunday without comment from the British Legion (some years ago they criticised football teams in the Scottish leagues but seemingly they’ve given up trying to maintain the silence) so it may not be long before the silent memorial disappears from public life. 

To me it all seems a bit incongruous. I can understand clapping a player like George Best. His talent had people on their feet, his joy was in prompting the crowd to cheers when creating or scoring a goal. But Remembrance is about remembering those who made a sacrifice. It remembers those who died, those who were injured and those who have lost someone they loved. Clapping death and destruction, sacrifice and sorrow seems a bit tone deaf. 

But of course, it goes deeper than that because we clap to drown out the silence. For lots of people we are simply not used to silence. We wake up to radio, put a CD on in the car, work in a noisy workplace, switch on the TV when we get home, and listen to an audiobook as we drift off to sleep. There’s never any time for silence so when it comes, it’s like an assault on the senses. There’s an irony to the act of remembrance; it’s a forceful act. It makes you stop and it demands you think. For two minutes you can’t escape it. It clutches hold of you and demands you let time hold sway over you.

And let’s be honest, it’s uncomfortable. Our minds wander, we consider our posture and wonder if we’re doing it right. We feel sometimes, by the end like it’s been closer to two hours than two minutes. But, in those moments, we consider the reason for the silence and compose ourselves again. So maybe this is part of the reason for the applause. Compared to silence, clapping is the easy option.

Going deeper still, I don’t think we can stand the silence because it reminds us of the ultimate silence. In the past our culture saw and understood death and even had a belief structure that centred around hope in a risen saviour and an eternal future. Now, as we hear less of the Christian message we have less understanding of what might come next. Unsurprisingly our culture cannot bear to reflect on that for two seconds, let alone two minutes. 

A few years ago a Liverpool player was caught smirking during a minutes silence for those who died at Hillsborough. He was vilified by almost everybody because he had broken the spell. He had not been able, perhaps not been capable, of approaching the act of remembrance silently. He was too immature. And yet on Sunday thousands of people dodged the mature grown up response and chose instead the less demanding memorial act. I’m sure many did it out of good intentions but we should still grieve it as a sign of sadness in our culture. As the sports writer Barney Ronay wrote: “Whatever the reason, it does seem a shame that we’ve come to this. A minute’s silence inside a packed and excitable stadium is still an unbearably potent memento mori”

Assisted Dying

Assisted Dying

The 8:10 interview on Radio 4 last week was concerned with the Assisted Dying Bill currently going through Parliament. It was an even-handed discussion allowing both sides to give their views fairly. But I was provoked a little bit when Michael Forsyth said,

“I think people should come out and say what they really mean. That they believe God is the only person who has the right to say when a person should die.”

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson picked it up in her response and was quick to clear herself of any hint of religion: “I’m an atheist” she urgently declared.

What is going on? What is it about believing in God that disqualifies us from this debate? What secret bias are we meant to be hiding? What Machiavellian plots have we hatched in church vestry’s up and down the country? Or is it our perceived naivety that means we have no say in this matter? That science and medicine and politics are too complicated for knuckle dragging God botherers?

Well, let’s say it publicly and unashamedly. We believe in God and we believe that God does ‘have a say’ in when people die.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s state confidently that it is because we believe in God that we have something to bring to this debate. And while we’re at it let’s address who’s really being naive in the Assisted Dying debate.

We are not naive about pain and suffering

Christians understand pain and suffering, our faith is founded on it. We are not idealists, pretending it doesn’t exist, or stoics, seeing virtue in pain for its own sake, nor are we hedonists who would rather die than suffer.

We understand pain and suffering because we are intimately involved in dealing with it. We mourn with those who mourn, we visit the sick and we assist the dying. We do not live lives in perfect HD, we are in the muck and misery of life. Like any sane individual, we would, if we could, take it all away but we know that this is a fallen and broken world, cursed by sin and we are all casualties of that in one way or another.

We are not naive about Greed

I have the highest regard for some of those who push forward the argument for Assisted Dying. I can understand the terrible impotence of sitting with a loved one and having no way of helping take away their pain. I believe them when they say they want a limited way to alleviate dreadful anguish in what doctors assume to be the final weeks of life.

But their high minded aims are dreadfully naive in the real world.

In the real world the NHS is constantly in need of mind boggling sums of money. One of the reasons for that is because of the cost of complex care packages particularly for the elderly who, we are constantly reminded, are living longer. Meanwhile the Government is still trying to work out how to fund care for elderly people in care homes. It is naive to think that once assisted dying is legalised there won’t be pressure, subtle or otherwise to expand the parameters for who qualifies for assisted dying for the sake of the economy.

In families too, where children are struggling to hold down two jobs and grandchildren are struggling for money to buy a house or saddled with student debt, money is a really issue. Are we so naive we can’t imagine a situation where a Great Grandparent sitting alone in a care home isn’t going to consider finding a way to end it all and pass on the inheritance? Do we really think they don’t think it already?

Right now the proposed rules wouldn’t allow that. But the proposal is based on the individuals ‘right’ to choose their time of death. Once the door is open, who could deny other people, people who aren’t terminally ill, but merely old and decrepit, the ‘right’ to make their own choice about their own time of death?

For that matter what disease is more appalling to contemplate than dementia? There are surely children who in their darkest moments wish their parent could have an ‘honourable’ end and likewise, parents who, in their fleeting lucid moments, would ask for one.

Worst of all are those children who would agitate, hint and suggest that, with not much time left to live, maybe now is the right time to say goodbye (and with it leave a healthy inheritance).

We’re not naive about Evil

That last sentence was hard to write. I don’t want to think of someone so callous they would usher their loved one to an early grave for the sake of money. But then, I’m not naive. I believe in evil. After Dr Harold Shipman murdered hundreds of his patients you’d be naive not to.

The Assisted Dying Bill would require the agreement of two doctors and a High Court Judge. It feels quite secure. But in reality, with time and paperwork and administration and pressure from other professionals and everything else, do we really think that every doctor would always make a fully informed decision? Once the dust settles and this becomes normal do we really, really believe there won’t be times when a Doctor signs a form or a High Court Judge passes a ruling against their better judgement?

We’re not naive about unintended consequences

When we say euthanasia, we think abortion. One of the key arguments made in favour of abortion is that legal procedures are safer than ‘backstreet abortions’. When abortion was legalised in 1967 one can imagine many MPs voted for it to save the lives of women who were dying. However, it led to thousands and thousands of abortions being performed; a number far larger than the number dying at the hands of unqualified surgeons in dirty clinics.

The point is not that one life outweighs another but that the limited permission asked for was not commensurate with what followed. When MPs ask today for limited assisted dying, no doubt they are thinking of those few people who feel competent to make their own decision. The history of abortion does not suggest that the matter will remain there. All of the things we fear about assisted dying and all the things we are told we don’t need to worry about are seen over and over with abortion.

We’re not naive about what’s really going on

This is a desperately sad discussion and should be approached with grace and empathy and love.

However we are not naive about what’s going on here. This is one more argument in favour of the individual. In the end it comes down to ‘my body, my right’.

I disagree with Michael Forsyth. I think God is sovereign and it is not in our rights to enable people to commit suicide. However setting aside that view, this is still desperately naive.

We are living in terrible confusion. We are utterly confused about the status of life in the womb. We can’t agree on gender. We expose our children to all kinds of things online and, then, wondering why they’re sad we medicate them. We swap partners, as quickly as we trade horrendous insults on social media. We can’t agree on our history and can barely work out what real culture is anymore. We anaesthetise ourselves on entertainment.

Right now we would be wise to leave this discussion for another day. But hoping to find wisdom in our mixed up culture? That really is naive.

Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution

Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution

I’ve been watching Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution on BBC iPlayer and I can’t get enough of the silences.

Tony Blair says his piece, the camera lingers and we get to watch his face as he replays it all in his head. The words, the gestures, the phrases. Did it come out as he intended? How would it be spun? Did we hear his truth?

Tony Blair is obsessed about his truth. He’s desperate for us to keep believing what he used to say, that “he’s a pretty straight guy’.

But since the Iraq War there’ve been doubts. Every word, gesture and phrase is gone over for flippancy or regret or deceit.

We heard a lot less from Gordon Brown and what we heard was more guarded. He too seems intent on shaping his legacy, shutting down talk of his fundamental flaws and banishing and suggestion of an inner anger. Writing in The Times Daniel Finkelstein doubts him:

“the contributions of Brown to the programme seemed on repeated occasions to be epically dishonest. His ridiculous contention that he wasn’t really in a position to contribute to decision-making over Iraq, for instance. Or his amazing assertion that he wasn’t agitating for Blair to stand down after 2005. However, I suspect this was him deceiving himself as much as anything”

As an epitaph on Brown and New Labour “Epically dishonest” seems pretty accurate. If John Major’s government had the hint of sleaze about it, the accusation levelled at New Labour was all about spin.

It’s naive to say that spin began with New Labour or that before Brown and Blair, politicians were above reproach. The bare faced liar of my generation was Bill Clinton but every generation had one. Maybe yours was Richard Nixon or John Profumo or Anthony Eden.

The difference with New Labour was that there seemed to be an intent to deliberately spin or mislead. Profumo, Clinton and many others lied when the net was drawing in and they were afraid of getting caught. But New Labour seemed to think it was just part of the game. They blamed the media for savaging Neil Kinnock and damaging Labour’s electoral chances, and seemed to think that made spinning ok.

So, throughout the documentary two or three of the major players are shown footage of themselves saying something on the television from their time in government. Reflecting now they seem quite happy to admit that they lied. None of the examples are big, none made them rich through fraud or won an election through duplicity but nonetheless they said one thing while knowing the opposite was true.

Today those same people, particularly Alistair Campbell, explode with rage at the loose way that Boris Johnson handles the truth but their condemnation is hollow— they played the game and played it well, it comes over as sour grapes to complain that others have learnt the rules.

The documentary builds up to the Iraq War dedicating an entire episode to it. The great debate will forever be over whether Tony Blair lied to parliament and the country in the events running up to that war.

For what it’s worth I have time for Tony Blair, I believe he is earnest when he says he was trying to do the right thing and I can understand the conviction with which he went to war having seemingly done the right thing in every preceding engagement he’d been involved in from Kosovo to the initial attacks on the Taliban. He was a product of the post Cold War sense that having broken Communism we had a moral duty to lead people to the same sunlit uplands we enjoyed. But I believe too that he had a messiah complex and that he probably enjoyed the stardust that came with partnering with America and that that blinded him to reality of what he was getting involved in.

You may have a very different view of this. You may have marched against the war with your Tony B.Liar placard and feel vindicated by your decision to do so. Either way, it’s hard to argue that New Labour, for fair means or foul, deliberately overemphasised certain things to persuade people of the rightness of their cause. You can call it lying or you can call it spin or you can call it persuasive politics but they weren’t straight up with people and the consequence was (and is) that people felt lied to and doubt the veracity of the things they hear from authority, to this day.

Today we argue about everything. Covid. Vaccines. Brexit. Petrol. The climate. Even the battles we thought were over are being fought again and again. How do you find solid ground to fight on when you’re arguing with a flat earther? Give it a go. Try arguing with a sceptic. Tell them to trust politicians or media or books or experts or even the evidence of their own eyes and you know what you’ll get back. But if you you can’t trust the government, or the media or the news on your Facebook or the words of the chief medical officer or the BBC or your doctor or your teacher, who can you trust?

I loved watching Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution but for all the talk I wasn’t absolutely sure what they were proud of actually having done. Sure Start has been abolished. New Labour’s centrist leaders were followed by Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn. Civil Partnerships have been replaced by David Cameron’s Equal Marriage reforms. And as for Blair’s determination to play a stronger role in the EU, you might have heard something about that since his day.

The one mark they made is their attitude to truth. Reshaping the story, repackaging the facts, getting hold of the narrative. They left their mark on truth and what we can trust, and that’s left a mark on the country.

Miss Kabul

Miss Kabul

Saigon, 30th April 1975. The Peoples Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong had finally taken the capital of South Vietnam and raised their flag over the presidential palace. Surprised by the speed with which Saigon had fallen, the Americans began Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of almost all the American civilian and military personnel in Saigon, along with tens of thousands of South Vietnamese civilians who had been associated with the Republic of Vietnam. What followed was the largest helicopter evacuation in history.

There’s a famous picture from the time that shows a Vietnamese mother seeing her 11-year-old daughter off at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The daughter, who is both Vietnamese and American, is being sent to live with her ex-GI father. This is, for the mother, an ultimate sacrifice: to send her child away to America in order to give the child a better life.

This picture motivated Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg to write the musical Miss Saigon. But it also prompted them to further investigate the last days and aftermath of the Vietnam War. Alain Boublil  said “The pain of being torn apart and the fracture of the maternal bond must always be a presence in the depths of this woman’s heart. What we felt for this girl and her mother has always moved us deeply, both as fathers and as the children we once were. This Vietnamese woman, her face frozen in pain, knew that finding the child’s father marked the end of her life with her daughter and that this moment at the departure gate was the end. The girl’s scream is the most potent condemnation of the horror of that war – of all wars.”

This photo could have been taken today in Afghanistan.

So much in Afghanistan is uncertain. Kabul is now in the hands of a new government. History suggests the Taliban may not be kind to those left behind who served the British or American staff working in their Embassies. So what happens now to the secretaries, the drivers, the translators and indeed the friends of Embassy personnel they have come to know? Friends separated for who knows how long; sacrifices beyond our imagination made. The Fall of Saigon all over again. History repeats itself; first as tragedy then as farce.

We forget that once upon a time in the mists of ancient history, it was Israel who were the invaders. Perhaps, in the words of a prayer by George Macleod, even today we are too tribal. Under their leader Joshua, Moses’ successor, the Israelites crossed the river Jordan and set their sights on Jericho. Brutality will soon be witnessed in Jericho at the hands of the invading Israelite army. Indeed, what follows has become a cute Sunday School story, with the trumpeters marching around the city walls before they tumbled to the sound. Much nicer than a Russian-made AK-44 pointing at your head or an IED exploding under your car or being frogmarched to a public square and shot. The result is the same: utter devastation and loss of life.

But strip away the inevitable bloodshed and you have in Joshua a story of a woman risking her life, putting everything on the line – family, friends, home – to help Israel overcome the Canaanites. There was no guarantee that for her there would be a new life, no guarantee indeed that inside the city that had been her home that she would not be found out and killed  before Jericho could be taken. At least we can put a name to the face: the woman’s name was Rahab. Rahab could qualify as Miss Jericho: she and her family were poor and ran a tavern right outside of Jericho’s walls. Sheltering Israelite spies before the onslaught, she told them how the citizens of Jericho had been fearful of the Israelites ever since the Egyptians were defeated during the Red Sea saga. She agreed to help the spies escape – and this is the key point: only if she and her family were spared in the upcoming battle. We know what happened next. The Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan and attacked the city of Jericho. The city was destroyed, with only Rahab and her family spared. Ultimately, our Miss Jericho married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, is her direct descendant.

Rahab was not a likely candidate for a hero of the faith. She was a prostitute in a corrupt, pagan city. Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in God. However, Rahab had heard that Israelites were God’s chosen people. Her actions to save the spies and align with God’s people saved her and her family. Crucially, she had escaped. For her, it was a happy ending. But what of those friends she left behind? There was no time for tears. No time for hugs or farewells. But for Miss Jericho, before dawn broke there would be a new beginning. The story of the modern world is the story of Miss Jericho, repeated again and again. Cities invaded, people escaping, friends left behind; tears shed and hurried farewells in the darkness. No time to pack or look back; a hurried escape to  a new home.

Innocent civilians just like Rahab, they are desperate to escape the chaos that will surely follow. Here they are queuing with their meagre possessions to board a bus at a refugee camp outside Kabul to take them to safety and a new life. They have left their homes in the provinces already, once, perhaps twice. There is clearly not room for everyone on the bus.
There never is. And now where will they go? Is anywhere safe in the new Afghanistan?

I noticed a photo taken in Kabul of a young woman trying to flee the city on a helicopter. Is she alone? It is difficult to tell. The boy next to her might be a younger brother. But that is all. It’s hard to tell what expression is in her face. Anxiety? Hope? Or just weariness, tired of running, tired of escaping, tired of being someone without a home? What is she thinking? Memories of those she has had to leave behind, of family members in her own village who did not get away or chose not to flee? It is the face of Miss Afghanistan. It is the face of Rahab. For Rahab too would find herself without a home leaving friends behind in Jericho, friends she knew she would never see again and a beloved home city that would be destroyed. We must share her story and that of countless others, especially the women whose hopes of education and jobs are at the mercy of the Taliban. Will we welcome her to our shores? Will you offer her a room in your home?

So remember this woman. She is you. She is me. Miss Afghanistan. To simply survive, she has endured so much, risked so much. She needs your prayers. Keep faith in her story. Her journey has only just begun.

Author – Mike Ward