As the US completes its formal military withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, we need to reflect on what we have learned. In his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, in paragraph 261, Pope Francis states unequivocally that every war leaves our world worse that it was before. He urges us to listen to the stories of those who have suffered the violence of war and to look them in the eyes and open our hearts. Only then can we begin to perceive the abyss of evil at the heart of war. If we have learned anything from Afghanistan, it should be that war does not lead to peace. Only truth telling, remembering, forgiveness, and reconciliation based on dialogue can serve as a sound foundation for peace. Seeking justice based on legitimate judicial processes must replace the practices of the past where wrongs were redressed only through violent retaliation and war. These actions serve only to perpetuate the vicious cycle of violence, adding heartache and suffering to the world.
We call on President Biden to replace war-making with diplomacy. We demand an end to accusations and drone strikes and call for the apprehension of perpetrators of violence followed by judicial procedures to hold them accountable. We ask for meaningful dialogue with Afghan leaders to ensure that human rights are respected. This needs to include a more meaningful role for the United Nations and the International Court in resolving issues of human rights violations and international disagreements. Let us commit ourselves to peace building so that we can together build a better world.