Turning Grief into Charity and Welcome

The majority of my career has been spent designing, administering, or managing foreign assistance programs for Afghanistan.  I spent 10 years in the State Department, including two living at the Embassy in Kabul.  Seeing the flag lowered at the Embassy compound was a moment of real grief for me.  It was my workplace and home.  After my time at the State Department, I spent a few more years helping to administer a grant-funded scholarship program at a university to educate Afghan legal scholars on the rule of law.

I know a lot of Afghan citizens, but I realized today that my contacts are a specific sub-set of Afghans.  They are the people who truly believed in the promise of democracy and the rule of law for all—even the women, children, and minorities traditionally marginalized.  There has always been an element of risk for them, but they took on that risk and fought for a better future for their country. In the past week, that risk has tragically blown up into danger and desperation.  These are the Afghans who believed, who allied themselves with us, and who organized their lives by hope and determination. Their worlds are falling apart.  Family members are being targeted and killed.  They are being hunted. They are in danger and they need us.  The messages I am receiving from friends, colleagues, and students are devastating and heart-breaking.   

I want you to understand this, because it is these people who are being granted Special Immigrant Visas, and it is these people who will be granted refugee status.  These are the Afghans who will become our neighbors.

These new neighbors of ours will be arriving in dire circumstances.  Yes, they will have economic needs—significant economic needs. And I encourage you to open your wallets and pitch in. But they are also arriving with grief and trauma and broken hearts. Our new neighbors need our friendship, they need our understanding, they need to know that they are welcome.  They need to understand that we understand what they did.  They need to know that we accept them as neighbors.  We have a moment of opportunity here to truly serve others with the kind of charity and love that we spend hours learning about in the pews of our churches.  This is the moment to act with both material support and with sincere charity. 

Mormon Women for Ethical Government has put out a Call to Action to contact political leaders and vocally support SIV and refugee efforts. The Call to Action also encourages you to contact local refugee resettlement agencies and let them know that you support Afghan refugees, that you want to help, and to ask what kind of help they need.  Please read MWEG’s message and do what you can. This is a moment of desperate need.


  1. Thank you for this, Karen. This is true religion.

  2. Holly Miller says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience. Also, thanks for including a specific way to help.

  3. You have been on my mind the last few days and have answered some of my questions here. Thanks for the link to MWEG. I have a close friend who fled inthe chaos in Vietnam in a boat following the U.S. withdrawal and thanks to the work done by Walter Mondale in response to that refugee crisis was able to move to another country, gain an education and eventually work in the law and now education. We need to take action as a country and as individuals to help our friends who cannot remain in Afghanistan.

  4. Thank you!

  5. Thank you. This is truth.

  6. Roger Hansen says:

    Utah’s Governor Cox has sent a letter to President Biden volunteering to take in Afghanistani refugees.

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