Dear St. Anthony’s:
This month has been an unusual month for me here in Afghanistan. Because of the Paschal season, I have been doing some especially interesting travel, as I have Orthodox people from 9 different countries to support in this country - Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Canada, Russia, America, Georgia, Macedonia, and the Netherlands! I thought I would send this article to the Desert News, in order to share some things from my travels with you.
First of all, there is an actual Orthodox Church in Afghanistan. Let me say that again. There is a Church- not just a chapel – here in Afghanistan, which is to our knowledge the only free-standing, permanent Church structure of any kind in the entire country. According to the CIA World Factbook, Afghanistan is thought to be 80% Sunni Muslim, 19% Shi’a Muslim, and 1% “other” (this one percent is mostly made up of small breakaway sects of Islam). Christianity is almost non-existent here, and Afghani Christians would be ostracized in every community that we know of. But there is still one Church in the country!
Back in 2001, The Romanian Army sent an infantry battalion to Kandahar, joining with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and 9 other NATO countries to provide a military and diplomatic response to the attacks of September 11th. Each NATO force built its own compound, and the Romanians were not going to be without a Church in theirs. They had loved ones back home send pictures of a particularly beautiful monastery chapel in Transylvania (the central region of Romania), and with the help of an ethnically Romanian U.S. Army Engineer, they drew blueprints and built a replica of this chapel in Kandahar, made entirely out of wood. The results are absolutely stunning.