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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Shura, a Meeting of the Elders
June 22, 2007

      Yesterday we went for a meeting – what the Afghans call a “Shura,” or meeting of elders.  We drove an hour to the village of Mamay, northwest of Do China, where the ABP have recently opened a new police center.  It was a rather different experience.

      The new Mamay ABP Commander also happens to be a tribal leader in his own right, so many Afghan elders came and attended.  The heads of three sub-tribes were there, 65 people in all.  It turned out to take up most of the day, and included much tea and lunch (the typical goat and bread meal, eaten on the floor with your fingers).

      After the lunch (which began quite late – in this part of Afghanistan, nothing seems to start on time), the elders sat on the floor in a long hallway, as is their custom, and listened to the tribal leader/police commander, our police commander, and another police commander give them what turned out to be quite a chewing out.  They were chastised for not living up to agreements from a year ago to work with the ABP against Taliban forces in the area, and reneging on their promise to provide the ABP with new recruits.  In the end, these elders were told, “If you are not for us, you must be against us.”  They were reminded of their promise to support the ABP with information and with recruits.

      The verbal reprimands were long and harsh, particularly from our Do China commander.  He told the men about how the US had saved the life of one of the local women, and how US schoolchildren were sending supplies to us to give to their local schools.  He asked why they sent their children into Pakistan to study, and why they did not support their schools.  He said that if the woman who came to us had come to them, she would have died.

      The 65 men sat there, looking down at the ground.  The commander was shaming them, an insult in Afghan society.  Apparently, they deserved it, and they got it.

-- Jeff Courter

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
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Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

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