The CEO of CURE International shared his personal memories of the Christian doctor who was among the three Americans killed by an Afghan guard in Kabul on Thursday. He also affirmed that despite the tragedy, CURE will continue "loving and serving" the people of 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," Dale Brantner, president & CEO of CURE International, shared in a statement on Thursday.
"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."
Umanos was one of three Americans shot dead by an Afghan security guard on Thursday while walking outside the hospital. A fourth American was wounded. The suspected killer also shot himself but survived following surgery at the hospital, and is now in custody.
Brantner clarified that the two other slain Americans, a father and a son, were not CURE employees, but guests at the hospital.
Saying he knew Umanos personally, the CURE president said he could 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."
In Chicago, Umanos' wife, with whom he has three children, said that the doctor's family and friends have suffered a great loss.
"I know Jerry would also really like everybody to know about his love for the Afghan people, and our love for the Afghan people, and that we don't hold any ill will towards Afghanistan in general, or even the gunman who did this. We don't know what his history is," Jan Schuitema said, according to CNN.
Officials noted that the security guard is a member of the Afghan Police Protection Force who was assigned to the hospital, but so far no motive for the attack has been established.
The Taliban has been targeting foreigners in Afghanistan with violent attacks in recent months, but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.
The White House condemned the recent attack.
"Any such attack on civilians at a hospital is despicable and cowardly. We send our deepest condolences to the families of all those killed and injured," National Safety Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said.
"The United States continues to strongly support those in Afghanistan who abhor this violence and are working to build a peaceful, prosperous future for themselves. We remain proud of all Americans serving in Afghanistan, working shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghan partners toward our shared goal of a sovereign, stable, secure, and democratic Afghanistan."
CURE International opened the hospital in Kabul in 2005 at the invitation of the Afghan government, where over 37,00 patients a year are served. The Christian non-profit group operates in 29 countries, and says that it provides surgical treatment regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, or ability to pay.
Brantner affirmed that the organization "remains committed to loving and serving the people of Afghanistan," as well as to protecting the health and welfare of its staff and patients. He also reflected on CURE's mission and how it fits with the message of Jesus Christ.
"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," he wrote.
"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."