Ten members of a Christian aid team were murdered in northern Afghanistan on Aug. 5 after spending three weeks providing medical care to villagers, according to The New York Times (NYT).
Six Americans, a Briton, a German and two Afghans were ambushed when they stopped to eat lunch in Sharrun Valley, in the Hindu Kush mountains of northern Afghanistan. The Taliban, who have claimed responsibility for the killings, have accused the team of spying and being Christian missionaries. However, local police think the team was robbed and killed by local criminals.
The trip was organized by the nonprofit Christian organization International Assistance Mission (IAM). The team, which included doctors, nurses and technicians, was led by Dr. Tom Little, an optometrist who had worked in Afghanistan for more than 30 years. According to media reports, a memorial service was held for the 10 aid workers on Aug. 12 at the Christian cemetery in Kabul, and Dr. Little and an American colleague will be buried in the cemetery after the FBI completes forensic investigations.
The IAM released a statement on its website honoring those who were killed. “We want to pay tribute to each of our colleagues who died, to their commitment to serve the Afghan people,” the statement said. “Those who have known them and seen them at work can do nothing put pay the highest tribute to them. Over the next few days and weeks, there will no doubt be many news articles about the lives of these individuals. They will speak for themselves.”
The U.S. State Department called the team “heroes.” “The Taliban has called this group of medical aid workers spies and proselytizers,” said U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who addressed Afghans in a video message. “They were no such thing. These were selfless volunteers who devoted themselves to providing free and much–needed health care to Afghans in the most remote and difficult parts of your country.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has condemned the murders, calling the killings a “despicable act of wanton violence” that demonstrates the brutality of the Taliban.
Following the murders of these 10 aid workers, UK–based Release International, a sister organization to The Voice of the Martyrs, is warning of a growing threat to Christians working in Afghanistan.
Release CEO Any Dipper, who worked in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban, believes the latest attack increases the danger to Christian relief workers and also threatens Afghans who have embraced the Christian faith.
“Christians living and working in Afghanistan face the added risk of being accused of proselytism, in addition to practicing their own faith privately and in community,” Dipper said. “What risk do Christians pose to the Taliban? The Christian communities have a vital part to play in the building of the nation, inspired by God to serve, driven with passion to love, and selflessly focused on those more needy than themselves,” he added.
The Voice of the Martyrs encourages you to pray for Christians in Afghanistan. Pray for God’s protection of the many relief workers risking their lives to rebuild Afghanistan and help its people. Pray that God will comfort the families of the aid workers who died in this attack. Praise God for their faithfulness to serve others for his glory.