Unarranged thoughts after the killing of Gail.



I bought my daughter a new (second hand, old, scrappy, but larger) bike a few days ago. She has grown past her old bike, which we have given to Elijah. She and Elijah so enjoy riding to school. They did enjoy riding to school. It was about the one normal public thing they could do. No parks, no libraries, no cafés, no boardwalks. But they could ride to school. Can’t do that anymore.

If I have to arrange transport for Julie everywhere she goes, it will be ridiculous. Same with the kids. We didn’t come here to be driven everywhere. Julie used to go walking in the morning with her friend. Not anymore. I had just been given a bike by Dan, who is leaving Afghanistan (partly because of deteriorating security). I had just put new brakes on the front, cleaned it up. I was really enjoying riding it.

I have started scanning for weapons when I drive. I checked for car bombs yesterday. It is ages since I have done that.

Other agencies are taking on armed guards. I won’t do that. We will not kill in order to remain in this country, and that is the step you take when you put on armed guards. If you are not willing to allow them to kill, they are no deterrent.

Most people agree this is not the end of matters. There will be more killings. Aid workers used to be neutral, we had tactics we could use to avoid conflict. If aid workers were killed, it was because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, were seen as obstacles. But not targets. We were not deliberately targetted. Now we are. If you are a target, get out of the firing range.

What really irritates and upsets me in this, is that four years ago, we predicted this. The reduction of the neutral, protected humanitarian space. We said that if the military started doing aid –that is, being aid-workers, aid workers would start being equated with the military. That is, we would be seen as synonymous with the ideologies and attitudes that have placed occupying, armed forces here, and so be seen as legitimate targets.

And that is exactly what has happened.

We don’t want to return to Australia. Not yet. I had just started to feel at home. When we first came here, in 1999, to live, I got straight into being here. I planted a vegetable garden, I did projects to improve our home, I made this place our place. Then we got evacuated and it all went South. The second time we came here to live, it took me longer. I was more wary. This time, I had, until very recently, an attitude of ‘ this place is not my home. I will not invest in it.’ That changed about two weeks ago, and I started to care. I thought about running drama classes at the kids school. I started doing stuff to improve our home, beyond the bare minimum. I started to want to make this place, our place. I started to care.


15 thoughts on “Unarranged thoughts after the killing of Gail.

  1. sorry to hear things have gotten so pear-shaped. your thoughts on the reduction of humanitarian spaces resonates. wishing you clarity and wisdom in your reflecting on how to move forward.
    love and peace, kezza

  2. I read about Gail this morning in the paper. I read it over serveral times. While I was jogging this morning on an empty track, I thought about her and you and other people doing love in the midst of hate. I cried, something I haven’t done for a long time. If I had not read your previous post yesterday, I would not have made the connection. I would have skimmed through the article and gone about by day without a second thought. Thank you for the connection. It put flesh and blood to the story – as every story should.


  3. Mate, you and Julie are able to make life and death decisions for yourslf, whether you stay or go and under what circumstances.
    The presence of Pieta and Elijah and your responsibilty for them is I believe your highest priority. Serving God is important, serving the poor and disenfranchised is important, working for peace and a better world is important, going places where others are not willing to go is important, but so is protecting your children.
    No-one can question your faithfulness, your commitment, your ideals, your desire to make a difference. You have given yourselves to Afghanistan under tough conditions for a long time. I don’t know what will happen next and I’m not telling you what you should do, but as someone who loves you and your family, and has known you for a long time, I am more and more concerned for your welfare and safety.
    God can use you in plenty of other places, but not if you’re dead. Sorry to be blunt, but let’s talk turkey. If your kids were hurt you would have a huge battle recovering from the grief and guilt that would inevitably follow.
    I can’t claim the same intellect and I don’t have your experience or view of the world so I can’t advise you at that level. But I can say I care very much about what happens to you Julie and the kids. I’m praying for you. For safety, protection, wisdom and guidance.

    Take care

    PS. Sorry if this is out of line, I wasn’t sure whether to post it, but I guess you write honestly on the blog so people can read it, and allow comments so we who do read it can respond honestly.

  4. Marcus, I appreciate the thought mate. No, its not out of line. Julie and I have just finished a (another) long conversation about what to do. I agree, the kids are a high (highest?) priority. And yep, we are not much use dead (except as an inspiration to others, I spose). I dunno. If Afghanistan had been like this 6 months ago, when we were leaving, we probably wouldn’t have come. It has got steadily, steeply worse, but now we are here, and the work is kicking along, it is hard to leave. Again. Leaving, we are always leaving!!!!. We’ll keep chewing it over. I have some meetings this week with others to try to discern the way forward.
    Thanks again mate. I love you too.

  5. Thanks Alanna. I drove along the street yesterday. Nervously. Slowly. So often I read about deaths, and it means nothing much. But this one was so close.

  6. Still reading and feeling your pain here mate. I don’t regularly pray for you but I will for the next month as you work out what you are going to do.

    Life is rarely simple and the decisions you are making are not straightforward ones.

    I will pray for wisdom and courage whatever shape that may take.

  7. Phil & Julie,
    your love for Afghanistan, courage, wisdom, obediance and faith is challenging and inspirational to plenty of others already.
    we will keep praying for you and the kids for safety, protection and lots more of the above as you work through your decisions

  8. Phil and Julie.
    We are struggling to find words–except to say that we stand with you in thoughts and prayers.

    As we have recently understood more from the loss of a close friend in a bike accident, life doesn’t make a lot of sense some times. Bad things happen senslessly to good people and God’s Kingdom growing gets disrupted. Complexity and uncertainty crowd in. We know your hearts feel things deeply and your love for Afghanistan, for people and for your kids is real heart stuff. We pray that you will know God’s presence as you respond and decide.

    Love and hugs.

  9. Hey Phil & Julie
    My thoughts & prayers are with you and other families (some of whom have kids here) whom are sharing the same grief & the predicament of what next? Even though I’m (fortunately?) single, the students here are like my kids in a way and I have grown to love & care for them deeply. I too am having similar thoughts as to staying vs going. These last few months have got me thinking about ‘death’. I’m not afraid of it – but I am afraid for my parents who I don’t want to ever have to deal if the worst happen. So know that I’m praying for you from over the border as you make intermittent life adjustments (which sucks) and make decisions about the bigger issue.

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  11. Hi Phil,

    I just caught up on your blog after a while. To me, it is very shocking to read all this. What’s disturbing is the immediacy of it all, so absent when you read disembodied news reports. Your writing really tells what it is like out there.

    I don’t know you except through this blog, yet I feel so much concern for you and your family. Not that I have any right to advise you, but I also feel, like Marcus, that you have to consider your children first and that probably you could achieve more alive and away from there, than if you stayed and died.

    Wish you luck – and happiness? is that possible? – in making your decision. I can see, of course, that it is a tough one.

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