Monday, August 09, 2010

Martyrs by default?

Karen Woo, 36, a surgeon from London, was with a group of eight foreign nationals working with the Christian charity International Assistance Mission (IAM) when they were ambushed by men carrying assault rifles in a forested area of Badakhshan province. Friends had expressed concern about the dangers Woo faced in Afghanistan, but she had assured them that she would take care of herself as "the world could not afford to lose any more heroes".  

In all ten people were executed.  The Taliban claimed responsibility for the murders, saying the group had been trying to convert Afghans to Christianity, but local police said they believed thieves were to blame.

Woo was due to get married to a soldier she had met in Kabul.  

IAM has worked in Afghanistan since 1966. They have about 500 Afghan colleagues and 50 international colleagues. Until last Thursday, none of their Afghan colleagues had ever been killed while on duty with IAM.  However, in those 44 years, they have lost four international staff members. One woman was shot and killed in 1971 while she and her colleagues were having a picnic at Qarghah Lake.  In the mid 70s, an engineer was killed in a strange car accident.  In 1980, a Finnish couple were brutally murdered during a robbery at their home.

IAM is a Christian organization – they have never hidden this, and are registered as such with the Afghan government.  The  faith of those involved motivates and inspires them, but because they wish to abide by the laws of Afghanistan, they don't proselytize.

An update on this story has been reported by the Guardian. 

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