by Debra Heine
Afghan Christians and other religious groups whose faith has placed them at extreme risk to Taliban persecution are reportedly turning to a Glenn Beck organization for help after being turned away at the Kabul airport by the State Department.
The names of Afghan Christians and others appear on U.S. government lists of qualified evacuees, but sources say the State Department has not been honoring their commitment to rescue those still trapped in the Taliban-controlled country.
Faith McDonnell, director of advocacy at Katartismos Global, an Anglican nonprofit ministry group based in Manassas, Virginia, told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) Wednesday that sources on the ground say that “the State Department at least at a certain point was not implementing the lists that they require the organizations to compile — even though they have sent them multiple times.”
McDonnell further said: “It seems at present as if no one is getting any priority unless they have some sort of special connection inside the airport,” she said.
According to the White House, the United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 87,900 people out of Afghanistan since the end of July, on U.S. military and coalition flights. However, at least tens of thousands are still reportedly looking to leave Kabul in the coming days.
Aid officials have told CNA that “the State Department’s “P-2” designation for certain priority evacuees does not specifically include Christians or other members of religious minorities.”
The designation reportedly gives priority to “women at risk,” journalists, academics, pilots, and “minority populations,” among others.
The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, called Wednesday for the Biden administration to broaden the designation “to explicitly include Afghan religious minorities, in recognition of the severe risks they already face, which will only heighten after the end of the U.S. evacuation,” according to a statement by USCIRF Commissioner Frederick A. Davie.
Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck has stepped forward to help Afghan Christians escape the country as the Aug. 31 evacuation deadline looms.
Beck’s nonprofit group, The Nazarene Fund has reportedly raised more than $28 million to evacuate Christians from Afghanistan.
The Nazarene Fund works “to liberate the captive, to free the enslaved, and to rescue, rebuild and restore the lives of Christians,” according to its mission statement.
Beck said the organization experienced delays on Monday, but by Tuesday, the first planes carrying a total of 1,200 people had flown out from the airport.
“Operation Nazarene Rescue: flight three has just taken off. Now 1200 Christians evacuated and flown to safety. It has been a good day!” the talk show host announced in a Facebook post.
In a video posted on Instagram, Beck said that his group has at least 20 large aircraft available, including 737s and 757s, and hopes to airlift some 7,000 people to safety by Friday.
“The spiritual warfare that is going on right now, I mean, everything has been a battle,” Beck said in a video posted on Instagram Sunday. “It’s just a battle of good versus evil.”
“Oh happy day! While we slept, @thenazarenefund was busy loading planes. This was the second plane load of Afghanistan Christian refugees leaving Kabul,” Beck wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday. “More to come! Thank you for your prayers and kindness. We heal ourselves when we heal others.”
Beck’s post was accompanied with a photo of people boarding a plane in the Kabul airport. Last week, the radio host called upon his listeners and followers to donate to The Nazarene Fund and “give until it hurts” so that thousands of Christians could be safely evacuated from Afghanistan. He called upon his listeners and followers, saying that The Nazarene Fund needed “an enormous amount of money” to help “people that are marked for death for what they believe in.”
Early Wednesday morning on Instagram, Beck wrote, “I cannot specify for international relations and security reasons exactly where I am today, but I am in the Middle East at the home base of operations for @thenazarenefund. I will try to join radio/podcast right at the top 9amE on @theblazetv.”
According to multiple reports, conditions at the airport deteriorated further on Wednesday, with terrorist threats putting those trying to flee the country in imminent danger.
Nina Shea, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, based in Washington, D.C., told CNA that amid the chaos and confusion, Afghan Christians have been left behind.
“I’ve started receiving panicked emails from Afghan Christians through their Western contacts. They are not being allowed to board USG (U.S. government) flights in Kabul. I’m advising them to try to board Glenn Beck’s flights instead,” Shea said in an email to CNA.
Beck predicted that by the end of the week, “we will be able to move 7,000 Christians. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Beck talked about the Nazarene Fund’s charitable work in Afghanistan during his radio show on Tuesday.
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