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We don’t have many options right now,” said Tayeb Djawad, an adviser to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, in an interview with Claire Schaeffer-Duffy. “We are like being on the top of a bridge that’s very shaky. We either get to the other side or we don’t make it.”

“For many Afghans,” writes Schaeffer-Duffy in this week’s cover story, “the unspoken question is, ‘Will America shake or strengthen the bridge?’ ”

Schaeffer-Duffy, who lives with her husband, Scott, and their four children -- Justin, 17, Grace, 14, Patrick, 10, and Aiden, 7 -- in the St. Francis and Therese Catholic Worker House in Worcester, Mass., recently traveled to Kabul with an interfaith delegation organized by Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights group.

Travel to Afghanistan being what it is, Global Exchange is one of the best bets for getting in to take a look around. Catholics were well-represented on the 19-member delegation that included Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, auxiliary of Detroit; Pax Christi U.S.A. President David Robinson; and Marie Dennis, director of global concerns for Maryknoll. Also on the tour was United Methodist Bishop Joseph Sprague from the Chicago area and two family members of 9/11 victims.

I complimented Schaeffer-Duffy on the first batch of stories that she sent in, expressing admiration at the amount of preparation she had obviously done while helping to run the Catholic Worker House, keeping track of teenagers and toting kids to soccer matches. “I didn’t,” she said, in her honest-to-a-fault way. “I crammed like hell on the plane.”

What was the most compelling impression that remains with her following her six-day stay in Afghanistan? “The place is just mired in wars and full of people who, like us, want to live their lives without the interruption of war.”

Read her report beginning on Page 13. I think you’ll become convinced, as I was, that dropping the bombs was the easy part.

Our next issue will contain her extensive report on the lingering effects of U.S. cluster bombs and how they have affected efforts to get rid of land mines in Afghanistan, one of the most heavily mined countries on earth.

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the news out of Afghanistan, but there is a way to do something to help alleviate the pain and suffering there. Global Exchange and a group of family members who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks, Peaceful Tomorrows, are calling on the government to create an Afghan Victims Fund.

Some 40 members of Congress signed a dear colleague letter last May in support of a fund.

For more information on the fund campaign, see Global Exchange at www.globalexchange.org or Peaceful Tomorrows at www.peacefultomorrows.org

NCR’s Vatican correspondent, John Allen, writes in his column in NCR Online (www.natcath.org) this week about a recent brief conversation with Pope John Paul II. It was the second time in recent weeks that he met the pope. The first occurred on the papal plane during the pope’s trip to Azerbaijan under the watchful eyes of papal spokesman Juaquín Navarro-Vals, left, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

-- Tom Roberts

My e-mail address is troberts@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, July 19, 2002