10/21/2008, 00.00
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Afghan Christians worried and distraught by aid worker’s death

Religiously-motivated murders are nothing new in the country. The murdered woman had been working with the disabled and refugees for years. The Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Pro-Kabul Children association are loved because they take care of “our poor.”
Kabul (AsiaNews) – Christians and aid workers are distraught and filled with dismay over the killing of Gayle Williams, an aid worker with Serve Afghanistan, who was gunned down yesterday as she went to work. The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the murder, claimed that the woman “was working for an organisation which was preaching Christianity in Afghanistan”.

This is not the first time that the Muslim fundamentalists have justified killing on religious grounds, but some Catholics doubt that it is real reason behind the British aid worker’s death.

Gayle Williams, 34 (pictured), had been in the country for several years, working with the disabled, first in Kandahār and then in Kabul.

Her colleagues in Serve Afghanistan, a Christian-based British organisation, remember her as a person “who truly put others before herself,” always lending a “helping hand to those in need.”

Serve Afghanistan is an organisation that has been involved with the Afghan population since the Soviet occupation. Its employees worked with Afghan refugees in Pakistan. At the end of the nineties when the refugee emergency was over, it (along with the refugees) moved back to Afghanistan to help the elderly, the disabled and children.

After the international action to remove the Taliban in 2001, many non-governmental organisations arrived in Afghanistan to help meet the various needs of its population. Some of them are Catholic NGOs, often associated with male or female religious orders, like the Sisters of Mother Teresa.

The presence of so many Christian women, including some in religious dress like the Missionaries of Charity, has led some to question the ostensibly religious motive behind Williams’ murder.

“If they wanted to kill Christians, they have many targets to choose from, some more easily recognisable than others,” said one source in Kabul. “It is more likely that she was targeted because she was British.”

For many years now there have been religiously-motivated killings and abductions. Some months ago for example, the Taliban murdered three aid workers saying they had killed “three Christians”.

A French Catholic woman was also killed a few years ago in Kandahār. She too was eliminated “because she was Christian.”

And last year 23 Presbyterians from South Korea were abducted and two killed before South Korean authorities were able to negotiate their release.

Catholic communities present in Afghanistan shy away from proselytising. They bear witness through their work. For instance, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the “Pro-Kabul Children” association are involved with disabled or street kids.

So far they have not experienced any resentment or felt any tension. People love them because “these women came to help our poor.”

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