Statement by Bishop Michael Burbidge on
the Afghanistan humanitarian crisis

September 17, 2021

Many of us have seen tragic images and heard harrowing stories of violence, brutality, death and, recently, threats of starvation in Afghanistan, following the United States withdrawal. Each service man and woman, interpreter, translator, and others who worked alongside the United States military in various capacities should be proud of their selfless and brave efforts in Afghanistan.

Since July, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington has assisted more than 200 Afghan refugees with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). These persons fled for their lives and are making a new home within our diocese and nation. We have welcomed roughly 2,800 SIV holders since 2016, and, in the coming months, Catholic Charities staff, working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. State Department, expect at least to double the number of Afghan refugees they currently serve. Catholic Charities provides and furnishes homes, assists with finding employment, helps enroll refugee children in schools, and offers English classes and cultural integration.

The response to serve the needs of the recent Afghan refugees from parishioners and other community members, who have flooded Catholic Charities with packages of household and personal items, clothing and food has been powerfully inspiring. Some have even offered their homes. These generous individuals are instruments of God's mercy. Meanwhile, aided by parishioner support, Catholic Relief Services continues to assist Afghans who remain in dire straits in their home country.

This ongoing tragedy has provided all Christians with the reminder of our Lord's command to welcome the stranger, care for the poor and protect the vulnerable. As Pope Francis has encouraged us, may we pray for the people of Afghanistan and all those affected by this crisis and continue to offer ourselves as the Lord's instruments-by giving of our time and our treasure-to serve God's children in need.