This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
The Taliban is trying to justify the slaughter last week of the Nuristan Eye Camp Expedition by saying the 10 victims were Christian missionaries trying to lead Afghans away from Islam.
No, they weren’t proselytizers. They were so much more dangerous than that.
They were humanitarians, selflessly working to help some of the world’s most destitute people in one of the world’s most dangerous places, living their religious beliefs through their good works.
They were dangerous because what they were doing was much likelier to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people than anything that could be done by any nation’s army. But they weren’t in Afghanistan to win converts to either Christianity or to democracy. They were there just to help.
The 10 who were executed were part of an American-based relief group providing medical care in remote Northern Afghanistan villages. The team included six Americans, a Briton, a German and two Afghans. Their deaths bring to 17 the number of aid workers killed this year in Afghanistan.
The Americans were optometrist Tom Little, “Dr. Tom,” a veteran of 34 years of providing aid in Afghanistan; Dan Terry, who had lived in the country since 1980, serving poor ethnic communities; Thomas Grams, a dentist who gave up a lucrative practice to provide free care to poor Afghan children; Cheryl Beckett, an expert in nutritional gardening and maternal-child health; nurse Glen Lapp; and young videographer Brian Carderelli.
Also killed were Dr. Karen Woo of Great Britain, a surgeon who gave up her clinic to perform relief work; translator Daniela Beyer of Germany; driver Mahram Ali; and cook-assistant Jawed.
Yes, these were very dangerous people.
The murders of these relief workers accomplish nothing but to cement the reputation of the Taliban – which claimed responsibiity for the killings – as violent, intolerant thugs. And to make life a little harder for the poor people these humanitarians had dedicated themselves to helping.