Prayers Urged for Christian Aid Workers in Afghanistan

LONDON – Christians worldwide are being called upon to pray for aid workers in Afghanistan following the murder of ten members of a medical team last week.

Andy Dipper, CEO of U.K.-based Release International, says the deadly attack on the team from Kabul-based International Assistance Mission, including British doctor Karen Woo, was evidence of a growing danger to Christian relief workers in the country, as well as Afghan converts to the Christian faith.

"Christians living and working in Afghanistan face the added risk of being accused of proselytism, in addition to practicing their own faith privately and in community," said Dipper in remarks this past Thursday.

Last week, members of IAM's eye camp team were ambushed by gunmen and killed for allegedly "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity."

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, which took credit for the killings, said the gunmen found Bibles translated into a version of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan.

"They were Christian missionaries and we killed them all," he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

IAM Executive Director Dirk Frans, however, has strongly denied the allegations, saying that the organization is registered as a Christian nonprofit but does not proselytize.

The charity – reportedly the longest serving nongovernmental organization operating in Afghanistan – serves the people of Afghanistan through eye care, development, education and health care.

"Our faith motivates and inspires us - but we do not proselytize. We abide by the laws of Afghanistan," Frans insisted this past Monday.

In his remarks Thursday, Dipper commented on how the Christian community has a vital part to play in the building of the nation. He also said noted how Christians are "inspired by God to serve, driven with passion to love, and selflessly focused on those more needy than themselves."

"Hundreds of humanitarian aid workers are striving under incredible pressure to deliver assistance to where it is most needed, and to build community infrastructure. They are empowering Afghans to build a future for their country – one where they have hope," Dipper reported.

"What risk do Christians pose to the Taliban?" he asked.

Dipper, who worked in disaster management in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2005, fears the latest killings will only make it harder to deliver aid to people in need in Afghanistan.

"The whole climate for aid workers in Afghanistan has changed," he said. "Humanitarian workers are in a very vulnerable position, even more so because of last weekend's tragic incident."

In light of recent events, Dipper called on Christians to pray for the protection of Christians continuing to serve in Afghanistan in spite of the dangers.

Currently, the Afghan government reportedly recognizes only one church, the Community Christian Church of Kabul, while most Christians gather in homes.

Through its international network of missions, Release supports Christians imprisoned for their faith and their families in 30 nations. It supports church workers, pastors and their families, and provides training, Bibles, Christian literature and broadcasts.

Christian Today Reporter Charles Boyd in London contributed to this article.