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In southern Afghanistan, near the border with Iran, thousands of refugees are living in tents, driven from their homes by civil war, by the American bombing, by hunger and misery and desperation. Iran won't let them in, having already absorbed Afghan refugees going back to the war against the Soviets, but Red Crescent workers from Tehran bring food and medical care to the camps. Working alongside them has been a team from Elam Ministries, a Christian organization based near London.

Elam, as you may recall from the Old Testament, was a region east of the Tigris River. And Elamites are listed in Acts among the peoples present at Pentecost, each able to hear what Peter preached as if he were speaking their own language. Elam Ministries serves the church in Iran—where, in a population exceeding 70 million, a few thousand Christians are allowed to practice their faith so long as they don't seek to win converts—and in other countries where Persian is spoken.

A decade ago, when Kurdish refugees fled Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War, Elam was there to help the Red Crescent. That cooperation laid the foundation for Elam to help again when the current Afghan refugee crisis developed. In the camps, even as commentators speculated on the prospects for a "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West, Muslims and Christians worked together to help Muslims in need.

Their work is largely undramatic. They bring potatoes and onions, apples and pears, sugar and eggs, and huge stacks of flat bread. They distribute blankets and medicine. Except for a very brief glimpse of a truck unloading or some similar scene, none of this is likely to make the evening news.

One member of the Elam team recently at work in the camps is Arne ...

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January 2002

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