Rebuilding Afghanistan U

How Christian scholars are using their heads to change people's hearts at universities worldwide-including the one Osama bin Laden used to roam

The debris is everywhere you look—except, thank God, for the runway. As the Ariana Airlines jet approaches the airport in Kabul, four American scholars see that the place is littered with old missile shells and wrecked airplanes. "Later I find out that they can't clean up this debris because the ground is still filled with land mines," professor Teri McCarthy, one of the passengers, tells Christianity Today.

Mines kill between 40 and 100 Afghans a week in the rugged, mountainous Asian country. In the land still bleeding from 25 years of cruelty, an average person's life expectancy is 47 years. Afghanistan's infrastructure is in shambles: buildings lay in ruin; there's no central heating for cold winters; warlords are gaining power; local mafias grow opium, which supplies 80 to 90 percent of the heroin consumed in Europe.

But this literal ruin fades compared to a more damaging waste—that of Afghans' intellect and spirit. Only 21 percent of women, and 51 percent of men, can read. UNICEF reports that more than 85 percent of Afghans have never been to school. Many people are homeless. A phone line or Internet access is a sign of opulence. Only 4 percent of Afghanistan's university professors have doctorates. The nation defiled by thugs and bigots is on the verge of insanity, and its mind must be saved.

Afghan Minister of Higher Education Sherief Fayez, who earned his doctorate on Walt Whitman in the U.S., knows this. As the ministry of education website says, the oppressive rulers have turned schools into "centers for ideological extremism, sloganeering, and fermenting discord and conflict." But the ministry wants Afghan colleges and universities to become communities of "scholarly integrity, academic freedom, research and teaching ...

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Rebuilding Afghanistan U
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December 2003

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