Denver, Colo., Dec 22, 2022 / 13:15 pm (CNA).
The humanitarian organization Vulnerable People Project is working to secure shelter, food, heat, and security for a group of 200 Afghan refugees who fled to neighboring Pakistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021.
“These individuals, if not provided a so-called room at the inn, will be deported back into a dangerous situation in Afghanistan,” said Jason Jones, a Catholic U.S. Army veteran and filmmaker who heads the organization.
“We won’t let that happen. We have simply picked up where other organizations left off and could no longer sustain these refugees. We are appealing to the charity of the American people to help us continue the work of providing shelter, fuel, and food until these brothers and sisters overseas become stabilized.”
The VPP group spearheads assistance for vulnerable persons around the world, from Ukrainian refugees to parishes in Nigeria and Malawi affected by Islamic terrorists. The group became involved in Afghanistan 17 months ago, just after the fall of Kabul.
During that time, VPP partnered with other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and charities to evacuate more than 1,000 Afghan refugees to safer, temporary new locations outside Afghanistan. These new locations, known as “lily pads” — a term that refers to temporary landing grounds on military bases or at safe houses in nearby countries — have been plagued by questions of international law, making permanent resettlement a difficult and protracted task, and requiring the maintenance of long-term safe houses.
Interest in the cause of Afghan refugees reached its peak when groups such as The Nazarene fund raised $28 million for assistance evacuating the country’s Christians — some 10,000 in all, according to official 2016 estimates by the U.S. Department of State — to lily pads. Slowly, however, charities and other NGOs have moved on from Afghanistan, leaving just the Jewish Aliph Foundation, Pilgrim USA, and VPP active in the region.
Prince Wafa, an American citizen born in Afghanistan, was left behind by the Biden administration until he was able to connect with Jones.
Now, since becoming a successful businessman in San Diego, he is committed to the VPP “to do everything we can to give food to people who cannot leave their homes for security reasons. They are targets of the Taliban, and that is why they can not go out [of their homes]. We provide them food and shelter so that they can survive,” he told CNA.
“We also help Christians that have been able to go to another country and need to stay low in safe houses,” he said.
The Biden administration’s decision to leave Afghanistan “destroyed 20 years of sacrifices in both nations,” Wafa said. It is crucial to help Christians with time and money because “the Taliban target Christians for the only reason that they do not worship God as they do,” he said.
“Now they are trapped in Afghanistan or in nearby countries and they cannot be forgotten by the international community,” he said.
Last winter, VPP provided 30,000 families with food and fuel through its Coal for Christmas program, demonstrating its continued commitment to the beleaguered region.
Women are another area of concern for VPP. This week, the Washington Post reported that the Taliban banned female students from all universities.
“I need to leave Afghanistan, but they don’t help me. Please help me to leave Afghanistan, I can’t live here. I have a lot of problem[s],” pleaded a university-educated women’s-rights activist whose message to VPP was reviewed by CNA.
“Anne” — not her real name — was one of the countless women who saw her entire life upended by the Taliban takeover, after which women were no longer allowed to drive, were forced to wear a hijab at all times, and began to be banned from school and other positions within civil society.
Anne was moved to a safe country last December and now reports that she can sleep at night and ride a bicycle in the street — a practice forbidden by the Taliban.
“I always dreamed of riding a bike on the street but in Afghanistan, girls were not allowed to ride a bicycle. When I need something, I go shopping with my friend’s bicycle,” she said of her freedom, which still hinges upon future permanent resettlement.
Last year, VPP also established security at four Hazara girls’ schools. Hazara women are persecuted in the South Asian nation for their female sex as well as their ethnolinguistic group and religion. Hazara are originally from the mountainous region of central Afghanistan, which practices a nondenominational type of Islam that includes Shi’a and some Isma’ili components, making them “heretics” in the view of the majority of Afghanistan’s Sunni population.
“The Vulnerable People Project remains steadfast in its mission to serve and save the vulnerable in this region,” Jones said.
“We will not leave anyone behind, and by supporting our mission, you too stand with the vulnerable this Christmas and provide a room at the inn for the vulnerable who cannot provide for themselves. This is the true meaning of Christmas.”
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