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Legacy of empire

"Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first...” Matthew 12.45


A year on from the evacuation of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban, one wonders what the future has in store for that nation. The stories emerging - of rampaging poverty and sexual discrimination, exacerbated by the withdrawal of relief aid on account fo the government's human rights record - are desperate.


On Sunday night the second part of a programme documenting Britain's withdrawal from India and that country's subsequent partition was screened. In its handling of the whole sorry episode Britain bears considerable responsibility but why did the indigenous population of Muslims and Hindus turn on each other as they did?


The destructive capacity of human beings is as perplexing as it is colossal, as it is tragic, as it is unnecessary. But we always find somebody else to blame. That is not to deny that others probably are implicated - as fanners of the flames rather than dousers of the fire - yet it falls to each of us to decide how we respond.


One trusts that behind the scenes in Afghanistan diplomats, aid workers, government officials, even military officers, are negotiating with the Taliban: to understand their perspective, listening to their fears and intentions, in order to broker a fair and better outcome for all. I further hope that similar is happening wherever there is conflict, especially conflict with an international dimension.


Otherwise we are failing to learn the lessons of history and instead are guilty of planting the seeds of further violence, destruction and tragedy when what we need is peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.

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