Afghanistan aid workers' deaths highlights delicate position of Christian-affiliated groups
The killing of 10 aid workers with the International Assistance Mission in Afghanistan underscores the suspicion Christian-affiliated groups can face from some Afghans and government opponents. Such groups point to codes of conduct they follow in the country.
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ANSO, a security watchdog for nongovernmental organizations in Kabul, says the incident should not change threat levels. "ANSO doesn't see it as a shift in the strategic environment and we currently see no reason to change our advice to NGOs."Skip to next paragraph
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Many Christian-affiliated organizations in Afghanistan have significant numbers of Afghan Muslim staff who vouch for the organization in times when their Christian ties are highlighted, including now.
Codes of conduct
Christian-affiliated groups can also point to one or more codes of conduct that they have signed. One of the most popular is the Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which states: "Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint."
The code, like other similar guidelines, restrains workers on the job from advancing religious beliefs, but doesn't apply to what happens off the job, in people's private lives. Mr. Nduna of the ACT Alliance says his members are "fully aware" of the need to be "sensitive and careful about how they respond to questions" from residents in places like Afghanistan.
The Afghan Constitution does not forbid Afghans from leaving Islam. But some versions of Islamic sharia law consider apostasy punishable by death, a factor in Afghan court deliberations. An Afghan convert to Christianity faced the death penalty in 2006 until the government, amid an international outcry, allowed him to flee to Italy.
"Religion is the only sentiment that keeps these people going on and keeps this society together. If you touch that, then you are going to provoke a major reaction," says Saillard.
Still not clear who killed team
Who killed the medical team and why remains an open question, despite the Taliban claims. Taliban expert Michael Semple notes "these killings are different in approach" and "took place well outside the Taliban command."
At his press conference, Mr. Frans of IAM released the names of all those killed in Thursday's attack.
Tom Little of Delmar, New York, led the team and was an eye specialist. He and Dan Terry, another American, lived in the country for decades. Dentist Thomas Grams quit his practice in Durango, Colo., four years ago to go on dental missions abroad.
"He knew the laws, he knew the religion. He respected them. He was not trying to convert anybody," said his twin brother Tim Grams. "His goal was to provide dental care and help people."
A Briton, Karen Woo, quit private practice in London to provide humanitarian care in Afghanistan. Her family released a statement that "her motivation was purely humanitarian. She was a humanist and had no religious or political agenda."