WASHINGTON – In response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. forces, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:
“The humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan demands the world’s attention and action. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the takeover of the country by the Taliban have created significant, urgent concerns and grave dangers for the well-being of vulnerable groups including, among others, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, members of religious minorities, Afghan government officials and diplomats in the U.S. backed government, human rights activists, journalists, staff of civil society organizations and those translators and others who worked in partnership with U.S. and allied armed forces.
“The Biden administration has taken steps to expand and expedite Special Immigrant Visas. The Canadian government has announced the resettlement of up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals. But such steps are falling well short of the immense need posed by those whose lives and whose families are at risk. Countless Afghans now living under Taliban rule are likely to face persecution and even death simply for being who they are or because of the beliefs they hold. The international community, including active U.S. and Canadian participation, must use its influence to pressure the Taliban to protect those vulnerable groups. At the same time, we urge our congregations to help resettle the thousands of Afghan refugees who will be arriving and we will help facilitate partnerships between our congregations and HIAS and other refugee resettlement groups to make that possible.
“On the precipice of the new Jewish year, we are in a period of reflection and accounting. It is clear that whatever the intent, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has contributed to a terrible level of chaos and danger for the people of Afghanistan. An accounting by the U.S., Canada and the international community, no matter how painful, is essential. Throughout, we will continue to lift our voices with the people of Afghanistan and to pray and act for a future of peace and security for all.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.