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Priests And Nuns Stranded In Afghanistan

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Priests And Nuns Stranded In Afghanistan

Two Jesuit priests and four Missionary of Charity Sisters nuns were stranded in Afghanistan yesterday, as the country fell to the Taliban. Afghans as well as foreigners are trying to flee amid pandemonium and chaos at Kabul airport.

Indian priest Father Jerome Sequeira, head of the Jesuit mission in Afghanistan, wrote in a message to friends and colleagues: “Thank you for your continuous prayers for our safety. The way the situation is changing in the country, it is anyone’s imagination … safety does not make sense here. It is a chaotic situation.”

Afghanistan fell to the Taliban after the United States ended its 20 years of operations there. A relative calm reigned in the Afghan capital Kabul on 16 August, a day after its president fled and the Taliban installed themselves in the presidential palace. However, Kabul airport was a scene of pandemonium and roads leading to it were clogged with traffic and people, as thousands scrambled to flee the country in panic.

Four Missionaries of Charity (MC) nuns are also stranded in Afghanistan, UCA News reports. A senior Sister at the Missionaries of Charity headquarters in eastern India’s Kolkata city confirmed that four of their nuns are in Afghanistan. The Missionaries of Charity, founded by St Teresa of Kolkata in 1950, arrived in Kabul in 2004 for humanitarian work.

A Jesuit priest based in New Delhi said: “Our two priests are stuck in Afghanistan and are waiting for their evacuation.. We have also suspended our mission in Afghanistan indefinitely as we are not sure when the situation will improve.”

The two Jesuit priests and one of the Sisters are among many Indians waiting for the Indian government’s evacuation flights to get them out of the country.

Fr Sequeira, who has worked for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the country since 2006, had gone to Kabul airport to take the 10.45 flight to India. “It resembled a chaotic railway station,” he told Matters India last night, speaking from “a secure place” in the city.

He described how he dragged his luggage as large crowds and vehicles jammed the roads. “Thousands of people are trying to flee. I managed to reach the second gate but then Taliban were shooting in the air and trying to control the crowd. Before, my reaching, thousands of people had managed to enter the airport building but the entire airport staff had abandoned the place. Without any security check and boarding passes people had gone into the flight,” Fr Sequeira said.

He referred to images on social media showing people clinging on to a US military aircraft on the tarmac as it tried to take off. “In this chaotic situation no flight will land at the moment. Seeing this senseless situation, no country will dare to fly to Kabul at the moment. It was a terrifying experience,” he said.

The other Jesuit, Fr Robert Rodrigues from Karnataka state is stuck in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan. He managed to get inside Bamiyan airport in the evening on 15 August, checked in and was waiting for a UN flight to land, which would have flown him to Kabul some 25 minutes away. Meanwhile, the situation changed dramatically and the entire airport security personnel just abandoned the airport.

Fr Sequeira said Fr Rodrigues is safe and was “much better and relaxed” on August 16. “We are seeking possible ways to evacuate him from Bamiyan to Kabul through the help of UN agencies.”

He said the Taliban was busy occupying government systems and putting their own persons. “They are not harming the civilians at the moment but it will come once they have fully captured all the systems of the country. They have the list of all organizations and profiles too. In some places they have started door-to-door enquiries about the personnel of the organization,” Fr Sequeira wrote.

He said the Jesuit Refugee Service has indefinitely suspended its activities in Afghanistan “and all are hibernating in their homes or communities.” “All flights are cancelled and it all depends on the agreement between UN bodies and the Taliban.” He said the entire JRS body is doing all they can to evacuate him and Fr Rodrigues. “At the moment, I am safe,” Fr Sequeira wrote.


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