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Her.meneuticsHer.meneutics

Her.meneutics, April, 2014

Guard Kills 3 Americans at Christian Hospital in Afghanistan

Pediatrician "felt called" to leave Chicago's Lawndale Christian Health Center for Kabul.
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CURE International

Three Americans—including a Christian doctor from Chicago—were killed Thursday morning outside a Kabul hospital after an Afghan security guard shot them.

Dr. Jerry UmanosImage: Courtesy of the Lawndale Christian Health Center

Dr. Jerry Umanos

The attack occurred at the CURE International Hospital, a Christian hospital specializing in pediatrics and women's health. The victims included a father and son who were visiting the hospital, as well as Jerry Umanos, a pediatrician who worked at the hospital. Two other people were injured in the shooting.

"He always had a desire to be the hands and feet of Christ," said Jane Schuitema, Umanos' wife. "He was always a light for Christ, and he had a love and commitment that he expressed for the Afghan people because of that love for Christ."

According to a statement from Dale Brantner, CEO of CURE International (full text below):

The shooter was not an employee of CURE International, but rather a member of the Afghan police detail assigned to protect the hospital. The assailant shot himself after the attack and was taken into surgery by Jerry's colleagues at the hospital before being transferred out of our facility into the custody of the government of Afghanistan. We don't know yet the motivation of the assailant and are still working very closely with the Afghan authorities to learn all the details surrounding this tragic incident.

Umanos worked for Chicago's Lawndale Christian Health Center (LCHC) for 16 years before moving to Afghanistan with his wife, reports the Chicago Tribune. According to his biography on LCHC's website, Umanos worked at the only two training programs for Afghan doctors in the country.

According to a fall 2012 LCHC newsletter:

But in 2005, [Umanos] and his wife, Jan, felt called to move to Afghanistan. Today, Dr. Umanos works in Kabul at a community health center and at a children's hospital, which are the only two training programs for Afghan doctors in the country.
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This past summer, Dr. Umanos returned to practice at LCHC which he still considers to be his US home. He will travel back to Afghanistan later in October. Dr. Umanos says he is so grateful to LCHC, because it has provided an incredible training ground for his work overseas.

The newsletter also notes that "over 30 LCHC staff has traveled to Kabul to assist in teaching physician residents, midwives, and community health workers."

CNN interviewed several colleagues about Umanos's motivation and work.

LCHC is part of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and a 20-year-old offshoot of Lawndale Community Church, a church well-known for its community outreach efforts. LCHC announced in a press release this afternoon that its clinic is "grieving right now, and our hearts are broken."

This is not the first time that a Christian aid worker has been killed in Afghanistan, No. 5 on the World Watch List for persecution of Christians. CT reported the murders of Tom Little and nine other aid workers in Afghanistan after the Taliban claimed they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity." Little's wife, Libby Little, shared her story and also wrote an essay for CT on how Christian agencies were sometimes too quick to evacuate dangerous situations.

The New York Times offers more details into the murders, saying the attack "underscored the growing frustration with the Western presence here a decade after the war began."

The U.S. embassy in Kabul "condemns the deplorable act of violence," stating:

Those killed in the attack were humanitarian workers dedicated to improving the lives of Afghans by providing a full range of medical services including reconstructive surgery to children with physical disabilities and pre- and post-natal care for mothers. This act of terror has deprived the citizens of Afghanistan of valuable medical expertise.

CURE International Hospital of Kabul is "one of the leading medical facilities in Afghanistan," according to its website. The organization serves between 2,000 and 3,600 patients per month and specializes in training national surgeons as well as working with women's health programs and children's cleft lip and cleft palate patients. CURE International works in 29 countries worldwide so that patients can "experience the life-changing message of God's love for them."

Here is the full statement from CURE:

It is with deep sadness that I write today, mourning the loss of three lives that were taken by force at the CURE International Hospital compound in Kabul, Afghanistan.

One of these men, Dr. Jerry Umanos, had faithfully served the Afghan people as a pediatrician at the hospital for more than seven years, caring for the most vulnerable members of society -- children and premature infants -- and helping them survive the harsh realities of childbirth in Afghanistan. We may never know the number of future doctors, teachers, or law enforcement officers who were given the chance to live full and healthy lives because of the work of the CURE International Hospital staff and the service and sacrifice of Jerry and his family.

I knew Jerry personally and can testify to the excellence with which he served and trained Afghan doctors and nurses in the highest quality medical practices. My heart is deeply grieved for his wife and family, as well as the families of the other men killed, who were not employees of CURE International but guests of our hospital. One other guest also sustained a non-life threatening injury.

The shooter was not an employee of CURE International, but rather a member of the Afghan police detail assigned to protect the hospital. The assailant shot himself after the attack and was taken into surgery by Jerry's colleagues at the hospital before being transferred out of our facility into the custody of the government of Afghanistan. We don't know yet the motivation of the assailant and are still working very closely with the Afghan authorities to learn all the details surrounding this tragic incident.

I want to emphasize that CURE International remains committed to loving and serving the people of Afghanistan. We are also deeply committed to protecting the health and welfare of our patients and staff. This is the first fatal incident at our facilities in Afghanistan since coming to the country in 2002, and today's tragedy reinforces our need for vigilance.

Since 1996, CURE International has been serving children and families in desperate need of surgical care with the highest quality medical techniques, restoring bodies that were broken and bearing witness to the transformation of lives and families throughout the world. We do this not because it is what Jesus would do, but because it is what He did; and so we cannot help but see these needs, know that there is a cure, and meet hurting people where they are. That is what Jerry did and that is what we are called to do for children and families around the world.

Please pray with the 1,600 CURE employees worldwide that God would comfort the families of these victims as well as all those affected by this tragedy and give them a peace that truly defies human understanding.