Title: Kabul 24
Author: Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson
Rating: 3.75 out of 5
Kabul 24 is about 24 people taken hostages by the Taliban in 2001. Out of these 24, 8 were foreigners and were working for the Christian Organization Shelter Now International (SNI). The remaining 16 were Afghan employees of SNI.
These SNI workers were helping to rebuild war torn Afghanistan by building factories, schools, orphanages and such for the Afghani people. It was a time when Afghanistan was still under the Taliban rule and the situation was already very tense and fragile as the Taliban had implemented the strict Sharia Law for all the Afghani people, a law where women couldn’t work and people had to follow strict ways of dressing, living and even praying.
During this time, Diana and Heather, 2 foreign employees of SNI, went to an Afghan family (apparently on their insistence) to show them a documentary on Jesus and tell them a little about their faith. But seemed like it was a set up by the Taliban with the help of the Afghani family to catch them red-handed trying to convert people to Christianity. They arrested the 2 women and then went around the SNI homes and offices to arrest as many people as they could. They got hold of 24.
Kabul 24 mostly focuses on the 8 foreigners-2 men and 6 women. They did not understand what was going on and why they were being imprisoned. Now begins my real complaint with the book. For e.g. take a look at these separate passages from the book.
–>Even though Georg and the others had shared their beliefs about Christ with the Afghan employees, conversion was not a precondition for Afghan employment with SNI. They loved the Afghans for their own sake, and those sixteen men deeply appreciated the opportunity for work and the kindness shown them by the SNI staff without any pressure to convert.
–>We have never forced anyone to convert. That is not our policy. We simply help people with their needs without regard to their beliefs. We do not go into the cities and hold crusades or swing our bibles and say you must convert or you shall go to hell. We are Christians. We never deny that. We speak about our faith when asked, but only in a way that is acceptable within the culture.
–>They both visited the Afghan family in question. Against her better judgment, Dayna had given a copy of her children’s Bible stories book to the young boy after he had worn her down by his unrelenting determination to have it.
Here no where do they accept that it was a mistake showing the documentary and giving the book to the children. I’m not accusing them of trying to convert people to Christianity. I’m just saying that don’t act surprised. Under the Taliban rule, where they knew how strict the Sharia law was in Afghanistan, I’m surprised that this thought never crossed their mind that showing such things to Afghani’s was wrong given the circumstances. Besides why did Dayna give the kid the Children’s Bible story book? She could have shown him any other children’s book. Again, I’m not accusing anyone, just saying that it should have probably expected the accusations from a party as religiously fanatic as the Taliban.
So these prisoners were shuttled from one prison to another where the conditions were very bad. This book gives us a glimpse into what the prisoners, foreigners and otherwise, suffered under the Taliban regime. It’s very heart-breaking. Although the book as a whole was well written, I found it a little too dramatic at times. You don’t really need to dramatize anything, it’s already dramatic enough. For the last hundred pages I was literally glued to my seat. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The faith of these people is something that comes across very strongly in this book. It is this very faith that helped them get through this ordeal. After their escape from Afghanistan they decided to go back to Afghanistan to re-build what was destroyed. That takes courage.
I really liked this book. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s brilliant but it’s definitely worth a read. It also gives a little background on the Taliban and some other things mentioned in this book.
This book has stronger Christian elements than the other Christian themed books I have read before but I didn’t feel like the authors were trying to preach anything. It was just because faith was such strong part of the SNI employees that the book automatically reflected that.