Hard Times for Christian Aid Groups in Afghanistan and Somalia
It's been a bad week for Christian aid groups in two of the world's most challenging nations.
In Afghanistan, ten workers for the International Assistance Mission (IAM) were found shot in the northeastern region of Badakhshan. Beyond veteran ophthalmologist and team leader Tom Little, whose wife recently wrote for CT on the Christian call to suffering in mission, the now-identified dead include Glenn D. Lapp, who worked with the Mennonite Central Committee, and 32-year-old Cheryl Beckett, a pastor's daughter from Tennessee and a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University. Out of the 1,500 aid groups registered in Afghanistan, 17 aid workers have been murdered and 19 abducted this year.
Questions are flying about the circumstances of the murders. The Taliban have claimed responsibility, saying they killed the team because they were Christian missionaries. IAM denied the allegations, insisting that its workers do not proselytize and carried no Bibles. Local police suspect bandits. Only one member of the ambushed party survived—the driver says the attackers spared him because he insisted he was a Muslim and quoted passages from the Qur'an. However, there were two other Muslims with the party, and the driver remains in Afghan custody for unclear reasons. (Another Afghan member of the team traveled home separately and was unharmed.)
Meanwhile, the head of IAM says he expressed concern to the team leader over the size of the group and the number of foreigners in the party. He also pledged that IAM, active in Afghanistan since 1966, would continue its work despite the losses.
In Somalia, an Islamic militant group has ordered three Christian groups—World Vision, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, and Diakonia—to leave the country, claiming they are "missionaries under the guise of humanitarian work." Al-Shabaab recently claimed responsibility for attacks in the capital city of Uganda which injured at least five American missionaries.
World Vision noted that their Somali offices are staffed by nationals who are mostly Muslim.