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Have you ever been asked a question that stopped you in your tracks, opened your eyes, or challenged you?

Today we celebrate the feast of a young collegian who was stopped in his tracks when he really “heard” a question from another collegian. “What has your church done for the poor”? As visitors to this site know, Frederic Ozanam took the question seriously and sought help to understand it at a deeper level.

This morning reminded me of this. I saw the question on cmglobal.org that I realized I needed to spend more time with. Is Afghanistan a place far away? Fr. Hugo Marcelo Vera, Director of the Vincentian Communications Office in Rome asked it.

I share here a slightly edited version of what amounts to his “Mindwalk”. I am wondering if his thoughts prompted you to look around you with different eyes.


This month, the whole world witnessed the Taliban take over the city of Kabul. Images flashed around every corner and most of us watched amazed what was going on. Everyone drew their own conclusions and put responsibility in one place or another, but what is clear is that very few remained indifferent.

Not downplaying Afghanistan, he reminds us of what we have seen on TV. Then he continues….

… for many of us all this remains a simple news item because, especially for the West, Afghanistan is very far away. Its reality, its pain, its culture, its politics, etc. everything is very far away and when something does not touch our skin, it is very difficult to really feel it.

With all this in mind, I ask myself one question… is it true Afghanistan is very far away?

Oddly enough, Afghanistan is much closer than we imagine.

We can find it in every oppressed or sexually exploited woman, almost always deceived and kidnapped for the simple pleasure of some. We can find it in every migrant who, looking for a better life, left their homeland, culture and family in an attempt to find a more dignified life, even if that means getting on a barge to try crossing a sea and praying to get there alive. We don’t need to go that far to find villages or cities without electricity and what is worse, without drinking water, where their inhabitants experience in these basic needs the tremendous inequality between one and the other.

We do not need to watch on internet or TV remote attacks, while in our own countries the lives of the “unborn”, the poor or the elderly continue to be violated, while healthcare continues to be a privilege for those who can afford it and inaccessible to the rest.

It is not enough to be astonished by Taliban rule or other policies when we continue to look the other way and allow the corruption, deceit and enrichment of the political class in each of our countries, at the expense of the people.

From our positions, many of us criticize the decision of the Taliban to require women to wear the “burqa”, but aren’t we the ones who put a burqa on each of these and other situations in order to not see them and cover their realities, their needs, even their looks?

His answer…

Afghanistan is not too far away. It is right in front of our homes, in our squares, hospitals, and workplaces, it lives among us wherever we are, it is enough to let it touch our skin because only in this way, we can feel the pain of those who, even though we thought they were far away, are right next to us.

Care to share how the question struck you?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk