(The New York Times) Ten aid workers were shot to death last week in Afghanistan in the worst massacre of aid workers in years. Six Americans, a Briton, a German, and four Afghans were approached by red bearded gunmen. The aid workers had just finished having a picnic in the Sharrun Valley; they were returning home after a three-week trek when the gunmen escorted them to the forest, lined them up, and shot 10 of them. By Friday, the police found the bodies of three women and seven men, and the names of the victims have been identified.
It has been confirmed that the Taliban is behind the shooting; the Taliban claims that the group of aid workers were Christian missionaries and spies. The group’s leader, Dr. Tom Little, belonged to International Assistance Mission, a nonprofit organization committed to bringing healthcare, community development, education, and eye care to Afghanistan since 1966.
Though IAM is a Christian organization, it maintains its position to never proselytize and to abide by Afghan law. Its press release regarding the recent devastation reads, “IAM is a Christian organization – we have never hidden this. Indeed, we are registered as such with the Afghan government. Our faith motivates and inspires us – but we do not proselytize. We abide by the laws of Afghanistan. We are signatures of the Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs Disaster Response Programmes, in other words, that, ‘aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.’ But more than that, our record speaks for itself. IAM would not be invited back to villages if we were using aid as a cover for preaching. And in particular, this specific camp led by Tom Little, a man with four decades experience in Afghanistan, has led eye camps for many years to Nuristan – and was welcomed back every time.”
Dr. Little raised three daughters in Afghanistan and has been a trusted optometrist in the area for forty years. Dirk Frans, IAM’s executive director, is deeply upset by the tragedy, but the group nevertheless will continue its mission to provide aid for Afghanistan.