Monday, August 9, 2010

PCA Member Martyred in Afghanistan

Perhaps you have heard of the Taliban claiming responsibility for the cold-blooded murder of a team of Christian medical/humanitarian relief workers in Afghanistan. I have a friend from Moody who served in Afghanistan for 10 years and endured many close calls with the Taliban. World Magazine's Mindy Belz reports the brutal killing and actually quotes my friend's wife (Rachel Schaus) below-

On Sunday evening as members of an international fellowship in Kabul gathered to remember and celebrate the lives of 10 humanitarian aid workers killed during a medical mission to Afghanistan's northern province of Badakhshan, details of their lives and events leading up to their deaths continued to emerge.

Gunmen apparently surrounded the team as they crossed into Nuristan Province from remote Badakhshan late last week, shot them at close range, then raided their vehicles and belongings. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility, one of the most brutal attacks on aid workers since war began in 2001, saying they were foreign spies and accusing them of spreading Christianity.

The team, organized by International Assistance Mission (IAM), included six Americans, four Aghans, a German, and a Briton. Two of the Afghans escaped death: One fled to his hometown of Jalalabad following the attack; the other, a driver sources say is suspected of aiding in the attack, returned to Kabul, where Afghan police arrested him. Bodies of the remaining team members were airlifted to Kabul on Sunday, with U.S. embassy personnel taking custody of the remains of Americans. Autopsies are planned as part of an embassy investigation.

Team leader Tom Little, 64, an optometrist from New York who had worked in Afghanistan since 1976, was a fluent Dari speaker and helped to establish an eye hospital in Kabul that was overrun and shut down by the Taliban in 1996. He made treks to remote areas of the country in what fellow aid workers referred to as "eye camps" and was said to treat Taliban fighters though they briefly kicked him out of the country in 2001.

Among the aid community Little and his wife Libby were widely known for holding pancake dinners every Friday night that sometimes topped 100 in attendance. "People just had to bring their own toppings, and Tom would stand at the griddle and make hundreds of pancakes each week," said Rachel Schaus, a humanitarian worker in Kabul for more than a decade and a neighbor. Schaus said Little successfully intervened during a robbery attempt at her own home, as gunmen held her, her husband, and two young children during the early days of war in 2001.

"Tom yelled, 'O bacha, chee maykuni?' which means, 'Little boy, what are you doing?'—words chosen to shame our robbers—and after pointing their guns at him, they fled the house," recalled Schaus.

Dan Terry, 63, was another veteran of Afghanistan aid work and close friend of Little. He had worked in the country since 1971, married a Finnish aid worker named Seija in 1976, and raised three daughters there. Just a week ago in Kabul, with Terry on "his trek north," I listened as Seija recounted over dinner their family surviving Soviet occupation, civil war, and Taliban takeover. They worked for a time in a remote village in the mountains west of Kabul, 9,000 feet above sea level. The Taliban once jailed Terry for overstaying his visa, and he made friends with fellow prisoners whom he witnessed being beaten. Terry and his wife had just returned to Afghanistan from the United States for the medical mission to Badakhshan: "This is the work and the people that we love," she told me. On Sunday Seija told friends the only way she could identify her husband's body, after he had been shot multiple times, was by his beard.

"Dan Terry and Tom Little were men of faith and made no secret of that," wrote BBC journalist and friend Kate Clark on a blog following the killings.

But aid workers who knew the IAM team said they were on a mission to provide medical care, not to proselytize, or attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity. IAM is registered as a Christian charity working on development projects in Afghanistan going back to 1966. Executive director Dirk Frans told media that the group does not engage in evangelism efforts. In fact, non-governmental organizations registered to work in Afghanistan must adhere to the "Principles of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement," which state that "aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint."

Aid groups with Christian roots have come under increasing scrutiny in Afghanistan, following the May release of a videotape showing baptisms and prayers services allegedly instigated by Western aid workers ("Kill the Christians," June 18, 2010). Since that time two groups had their work in Afghanistan suspended. Several others, including IAM, have been the object of investigations, with Ministry of Economy officials showing up to scrutinize hiring practices, internal audits, and other paperwork.

All members of the IAM team were volunteers—the group does not pay salaries—and several had given up lucrative practices to work in Afghanistan. Karen Woo, 36, the British member of the group and a surgeon, left a job in a private clinic in London. A message posted last March on the website Bridge Afghanistan said she was "flat broke and living in a war zone but enjoying helping people in great need."

Other Americans on the team included Glenn Lapp, 40, a nurse from Lancaster, Pa., and member of the Mennonite Central Committee; Thomas Grams, 50, a dentist from Durango, Colo., who worked with Global Dental Relief; Cheryl Beckett, 32, of Ovensville, Ohio, a specialist in mother-child health;
and Brian Carderelli, 21, a student whose parents teach at the International School of Kabul.

ByFaith, our denominational magazine, offers some clarifying details about Brian Carderelli, who was apparently a member of a PCA church in Virginia.

Brian Carderelli, a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Harrisonburg, Va., was killed in Afghanistan while working with a medical team in Nuristan. He was 25. According to information released by the church, “Carderelli was a 2009 graduate of James Madison University who, after graduation, volunteered in many capacities. He loved people and was particularly concerned for the poor.”

Carderelli had been in Afghanistan since last September and was serving the International Assistance Mission using his photography and videography skills to produce promotional materials and donor reports. Two doctors had invited Carderelli on the Nuristan trip to document their work.

Brian Carderelli was an Eagle Scout who loved the outdoors. In his spare time, he enjoyed photographing the beauty of Afghanistan and its people. He was compiling an album of photos titled, “The Beauty--It’s Not All War.”

According to a church email, Carderelli was killed as he used his talents and training to show the love of Christ to the poor and disadvantaged.


Perry said...

Sad, but joyous. While I don't believe members of the Taliban, I find it more difficult to believe that at least some on the medical team weren't witnessing as they were going along.

Woody Woodward said...

So senseless, so brutal words can’t express the anger and the helplessness we all feel! But the Glory that was instantly revealed to these saints, receiving the great reward from our Lord, HIS CROWN OF MARTYRDUM! After being sick to my stomach, my first reaction was to think about the weakness of our arrogant elitist president, that has refused to call these barbarian terrorists! I am pleased that Hillary was quick to have some pretty strong words of condemnation, but she too refused to call them terrorists. And now let’s show some more tolerance by letting this radical Imam build a Mosque at Ground Zero.

Rick Calohan said...

Senseless yes but all things work together for the Glory of God. These reprobates who murdered these relief workers will not go unpunished. Rather they proselytized or not is not the issue; these medical missionaries showed God’s love and mercy to those who may have never received the medical treatment that they were in dire need of. May the Holy Spirit work God’ will into the hearts and minds of those who were reached and let this be a reminder to those who have forgotten that we are in a Holy War with enemy who is not afraid to die or reek havoc upon the western civilization. I pray that the current administration will consider “Operation Turn Sand into Glass” but it’s hard to nuke a country into the Stone Age when they are already there.