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Kabul 24: The Story of a Taliban Kidnapping and Unwavering Faith in the Face of True Terror Paperback – September 28, 2009
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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Aside from the hostage crisis, Kabul 24 gives a glimpse into the politics of the Taliban and the culture that led to the September 11 attacks. This is a strange world where religiously conservative Islam, while calling Christians evil, bypasses any sense of integrity. The charges are trumped up and people who say "the emperor has no clothes" disappear into the night. It is interesting to note that these hostages got by because many Afghans did have the love of God in their hearts and knew evil when they saw it. They lived because Afghans risked their lives to protect them.
This book, although difficult to endure in places because of the seeming lack of light at the end of the tunnel, is truly a demonstration of how a strong faith can get you through anything. Anyone who lives in a free country and reads this will appreciate what they have. Kabul 24 is also a potent warning that no religion should ever take hold of a country and control it. It was the mutual respect between two different religions that made life tolerable for the hostages and allowed them to tell their story. Kabul 24 is both a triumph of human spirit and faith and a warning against faith that loses love.
Under the Taliban onslaught against this volunteer service agency, food centers and occupational training projects, were destroyed by the rabid Taliban regime, while national governments attempted to gain access to their imprisoned citizens, being held incognito and incommunicado, along with their Afghani Muslim employees and protectors.
Georg Taubman, German Director of Shelter Now International, presents a quiet assurance and persistent appeal to the truth of their innocence and their transparent intentions to serve a needy populace because of their faith in Christ, without coercion or discrimination.
American readers will remember the two American members of the arrested group, Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, who were acclaimed as heroes by their nation upon their final release by their Taliban captives. These two Americans became the focal point of the move against Shelter Now. This agency has a policy against proselytization, but can express their Christian convictions upon request.
A trap was set when the Taliban regime forced a family to put pressure on Shelter Now members to provide a Bible and show a film of the life of Jesus, not illegal, but contrary to the normal practice of the agency.
Under persistent entreaty from members of the family, to whose home they were invited often, the two American women finally agreed to meet in the home of their Afghan friends for a private showing, which was allowed under then-current Afghan law. The family turned them in, under threats of reprisal if they refused to betray their foreign Shelter Now contacts.
SNI's loyal and protective Afghani friends are admirable in their steadfast defense of their international Christian friends. The authors are well-known writers and filmmakers who produced the film version of this story under the name Kabul24. These authors relate the story of the terror experienced by these dedicated Christian volunteers.
The story details the amazing deprivation and torture some of them underwent. Their strength of character is impressive. These dedicated servants of the Afghan people displayed a personal integrity and a steadfast faith that enabled them to withstand the pressure.
All the while they honestly but respectfully defended themselves and their intentions and maintained their total innocence of any crimes against the nation, the people or the faith of Islam. They demonstrate a deep awareness of and appreciation of Islamic and Afghani custom. They detail the torture and terrorization they endured under the Taliban, and the violations of Sharia law pursued by the Taliban regime in pursuit of their frame-up of these foreign benevolence volunteers.
The policies and practices of the agency honour the indigenous culture and reflect community-guided strategies to meet felt needs. Shelter Now seems committed to common cross-cultural principles and indigenized approaches to community service.
The missionaries of "Kabul 24" faced this very circumstance. What is so interesting is that they managed to emerge from it relatively unscathed and with honor intact, having been used neither as negotiating aids, propaganda material, nor targets for vengeance by enraged Islamists.
A compelling story, surely.
Yet the account is not so compelling.
We surely are grateful that these folks are safe and sound. We surely respect them for their faith and their fortitude. And yet the book itself lacks the drama of, say, a "Bat 21". It's told in a very matter-of-fact manner, but the prisoners themselves had limited awareness of their surroundings and their captors remain largely ciphers.
There doesn't seem to have been much in the way of Stockholm Syndrome in play here, thankfully, but neither do we get a sense of how truly nasty the Taliban are. You'll have to rely on your own knowledge of that to color in the background.
As such, the book itself doesn't really work. It's like being told the story of the Battle of the Bulge by a mess hall private possessed of mild Germanophilia captured on the first day and kept relatively safe from harm. Sure, there's a certain visceral interest in the protagonist's plight but the whole affair remains rather gauzy. Perhaps this is because the missionaries would like to go back and know more than they tell. Perhaps it is because they were simply so fortunate not much really went on.
It will take other books on the subject to really know for sure.