- Dale Brantner
Editor's Note: The following is a Christian Post exclusive op-ed by Dale Brantner, president and CEO of CURE International. CURE International has a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.
I understand President Obama's reasoning for announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
And I respectfully disagree.
I know, firsthand, just how deadly the situation on the ground in Afghanistan can be. On April 24, a gunman opened fire at our CURE International hospital in Kabul. My friend and colleague Dr. Jerry Umanos, a former Chicago pediatrician, and two of his friends were shot and killed.
All three had a heart to serve the people of Afghanistan, doing good in the midst of a society broken by decades of war. The attack was completely unexpected. The shooter was a rogue policeman, someone who was supposed to be there to prevent this type of tragedy.
In the weeks since, I've repeatedly been asked one thing: will CURE withdraw from Afghanistan? It's an understandable question. In the face of evil, some feel the safest response is to retreat.
When we came to the country 12 years ago, we were asked essentially the same question: how long would CURE remain in Afghanistan? Our answer then: We'll stay for 100 years, and then we'll decide if we'll be there long term. Our answer now: CURE is only a little over a decade into our commitment to the Afghan people, and we are choosing to stay.
CURE established its work in Afghanistan as a loving response to 9/11. The decision was made to repay evil with good, serving the most underserved of that society: women and children. When we came to Afghanistan in 2002, Save the Children's annual State of the World's Mothers report ranked the country as the worst place in the world to be a child. At that time, the state of women's healthcare in Afghanistan was such that there was insufficient data to even rank the country with respect to the health and well-being of Afghan mothers. It would take eight more years to gather enough information; Afghanistan debuted at the bottom of the list, making it the worst place in the world to be a mom.
After decades of destruction, Afghanistan desperately needed faithful friends who had the resolve to do good. Over the past 12 years, we have treated over 709,000 Afghan outpatients, performed over 21,000 surgeries, and delivered over 25,000 babies. In addition, we have trained over 2,900 medical professionals. As a result of CURE and other healthcare partners training Afghan doctors, nurses, and midwives, the country is no longer the worst place in the world to be a mother or child. The latest data shows Afghanistan is now at 146 out of 178 countries ranked. We still have a long way to go, but doing good is resulting in real progress.
In our time in the country so far, when you consider our patients and their families, we have met well over a million Afghans; only one has committed an act of evil against us. Yet, that one act of evil just outside the doors of our hospital is what has grabbed the world's attention. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of acts of good have happened inside the CURE hospital.
To effect real change, one has to have the resolve to continue to do good day after day. When evil is enacted, it has staying power. Evil doesn't need to be reaffirmed. Good has to be reaffirmed time and time again, continually, over a long period to effect positive outcomes. That truth is why CURE is resolved to stay and serve the women and children of Afghanistan.
Jerry's colleagues at the CURE hospital – the Afghans he had trained – understood the importance of doing good. When the shooting stopped, they pushed past Jerry's lifeless body to reach the man who had just taken their friend's life, saving him from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. They did what they had seen Jerry do numerous times; they put aside their own ambitions and safety to care for someone in their time of need.
Doing great good, like Jerry did through his service to the people of Afghanistan and like his Afghan colleagues did that April day, will always be opposed by evil. It's one of the risks of doing good. Thank God, goodness has the resolve to overcome evil. In the words of Paul of Tarsus, "Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."
As we look toward the future of Afghanistan, we resolve to continue to do good.
Dale Brantner is president and CEO of CURE International, a Christian-based network of 30 hospitals and surgical programs worldwide offering life-saving surgical treatment for children with disabilities regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity or ability to pay.