More on the Reckless Stupidity of the
Arrested Christian Aid Workers in Taliban Afghanistan
September 6, 2001
I wrote that the prize for the stupidest people in the world could very well
go to the eight foreign aid workers associated with Shelter Now, a
German-based Christian organization, who apparently were caught in
Afghanistan trying to convert people from Islam to Christianity.
Many readers agreed with my
assessment. A few readers, however, felt that these aid workers
were akin to Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King and others protesting
unjust situations. Along those lines, some other readers felt that the
aid workers should be commended for risking their lives for their beliefs.
One person even accused me of
Christian-bashing. Regarding this allegation, I think it was obvious
to most everybody else that I was criticizing the location and manner of the
proselytizing, not what these aid workers were proselytizing about.
As to the other points
First: these Shelter
Now aid workers were allowed entry into Afghanistan to feed starving
people. You don't proselytize hungry people you are feeding.
That's an inherently coercive situation. If these aid workers were
doing that, they should be ashamed.
Second: it's not their
own lives they were risking. As Westerners, they will be treated far
more leniently than the 16 Afghan staff members who also were
arrested. It's the Afghans who face torture and death. The
foreign aid workers at last word face only expulsion from Afghanistan.
Third: the aid workers
didn't go to Afghanistan to protest or change an unjust situation, nor, by
their own words, to risk their lives for their beliefs. According to
statements made by some of them, they claim not to have known what they were
doing was really wrong, and have apologized.
The two Americans admit
showing a video CD about Jesus. But ''we did not think it would cause so
much trouble,'' because Jesus is also regarded as a prophet by Muslims,
reads a statement signed by both Ms. Curry and Ms. Mercer. ''We again
are very sorry.''
[New York Times, April
Hardly in the same league as
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Fourth: the actions of
these aid workers threaten the entire Afghan aid program, since the Taliban
could expel all outside agencies, and hundreds of thousands of people could
starve as the result.
Christian Aid Workers:
Condemned by Colleagues
Don't take my word for
it. Here's what their fellow aid workers have said
about the eight people arrested:
"These laws were
well-known to everyone," said Fayaz Shah, head of the United
Nations World Food Program in Kabul. "It's like walking in a
minefield, and when one blows, you yell, 'Why did this happen?' But you
should know. You were in a minefield."
...The potential of more
arrests has left the aid agencies in fear. People say the Shelter Now
episode could eventually lead to a huge withdrawal — or expulsion —
of the agencies. That would be catastrophic for the needy.
That dreadful prospect
complicates the moral judgments of aid workers who would ordinarily ache
with sympathy for their jailed colleagues. As it is, commiseration often
is coupled with anger. Many people here presume that the arrested
foreigners were guilty of reckless proselytizing; however
well-intentioned the preaching, that forbidden endeavor to save a few
dozen souls has imperiled thousands of lives.
"Why did they break
the law, especially this law?" asked an American who insisted on
anonymity. "Worse yet, they dragged their Afghan workers into this.
After some political games, the foreigners will probably be kicked out
of the country as their punishment. But the Afghans, I am afraid they
are going to be killed."
Just like I concluded
yesterday before having read the above comments: these eight foreign aid
workers acted in an incredibly stupid and reckless manner.
[article condemning the
Taliban for their treatment of women]