Monday, August 9, 2010
As Lester's cartoon suggests, liberals are courageous defenders of the rights of women and gays as long as there's no risk involved in being so. They bring to mind the vociferous opposition by women's groups to the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in the early nineties. Their dudgeon was ostensibly the result of some putatively inappropriate behavior that occured in the vicinity of the chaste Anita Hill. These same very principled advocates for exploited women, however, suddenly went on vacation when Bill Clinton and other prominent Democrats were accused of far worse than anything alleged against Thomas.
It's not hard to understand why it is hard to take such people seriously.
Tom Little, one of 10 people killed by militants in northern Afghanistan, had spent more than 30 years working in the country, often in harsh and remote areas.
Dr. Little, a senior opthamologist from Delmar, New York, led the team of nurses, doctors and logistics personnel murdered in an attack. The Taliban yesterday claimed responsibility.
He had already been expelled from the country by the Taliban in August 2001, after eight Christian Aid workers were arrested for allegedly trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. He returned with the Christian organisation, International Association Mission (IAM), soon after the Taliban was toppled in November 2001 by US and allied forces.
As a senior member of IAM working with the Noor Eye Institute, Dr. Little trained the former Afghan foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, who yesterday paid tribute: "Dr. Little travelled the length and breadth of Afghanistan, treating thousands and thousands of Afghans."
He supervised eye hospitals in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat, as well as smaller clinics in three towns. IAM has worked in Afghanistan since 1966, longer than any other NGO, and treats around a quarter of a million Afghans every year.
His team trekked, on foot and on horseback, from village to village over two weeks in Nuristan Province, providing specialist eye treatment and healthcare to around 400 people before last week's attack, according to IAM's director, Dirk Frans.
He lost contact with Dr Little last Wednesday, but his death and those of the others were not reported until Friday, when an Afghan member of the team who survived the ambush managed to call. The Taliban yesterday claimed it had shot the "foreigners" because they were "spying for Americans" and "preaching Christianity".
AOL News offers details on some of Dr. Little's colleagues and the kind of people they were:
Dan Terry, 64, was another long Afghan veteran. A fluent Dari language speaker like his friend Little, Terry first came to Afghanistan in 1971 and returned to live here in 1980 with his wife, rearing three daughters while working with impoverished ethnic groups.
"He was a large, lumbering man - very simply a joyful man," said his longtime friend Michael Semple, a former European Union official in Kabul. "He had no pretensions, lots of humility."
In a Web posting, a friend, Kate Clark, recalled that in 2000, Terry was hauled off to jail by the Taliban for overstaying a visa.
"He went off good-naturedly, seeing it as a rare chance to have the time to learn Pashto," Clark wrote on a website. "He was released from prison after a couple of weeks and then re-arrested after the authorities decided he had not served enough days. He arrived back to the prison to cheers from his fellow inmates, who were now newly found friends."
Dr. Thomas Grams, 51, quit his dental practice in Durango, Colorado, four years ago to work full-time giving poor children free dental care in Afghanistan and Nepal, said Katy Shaw of Global Dental Relief, a group based in Denver that sends teams of dentists around the globe.
Grams' twin brother, Tim, said his brother wasn't trying to spread religious views.
"He knew the laws, he knew the religion. He respected them. He was not trying to convert anybody," Tim Grams said, holding back tears in a telephone call from Anchorage, Alaska. "His goal was to provide dental care and help people."
Tim Grams said his brother started traveling with relief organizations to Afghanistan, Nepal, Guatemala and India in the early part of the decade. After he sold his practice, he started going several months at a time.
Khris Nedam, head of a charity called Kids 4 Afghan Kids that builds schools and wells, said Grams and the others were "serving the least for all the right reasons."
"The kids had never seen toothbrushes, and Tom brought thousands of them," Nedam said Sunday. "He trained them how to brush their teeth, and you should've seen the way they smiled after they learned to brush their teeth."
Nedam said the medical group had never talked of religion with Afghans.
"Their mission was humanitarian, and they went there to help people," said Nedam, a third-grade teacher from Livonia, Michigan.
Dr. Karen Woo, 36, the lone Briton among the dead, gave up her job with a private clinic in London to work in Afghanistan. She was planning to leave in a few weeks to get married, friends said.
"Her motivation was purely humanitarian. She was a humanist and had no religious or political agenda," her family said in a statement.
Another victim, Glen Lapp, 40, a trained nurse from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had come to Afghanistan in 2008 for a limited assignment but decided to stay, serving as an executive assistant at IAM and manager of its provincial eye care program, according to the Mennonite Central Committee, a relief group based in Akron, Pennsylvania.
"Where I was, the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country," Lapp wrote in a recent report to the Mennonite group. "... Treating people with respect and with love."
Another victim, Cheryl Beckett, the 32-year-old daughter of a Knoxville, Tennessee, pastor, had spent six years in Afghanistan and specialized in nutritional gardening and mother-child health, her family said. Beckett, who was her high school valedictorian at a Cincinnati-area high school and held a biology degree, had also spent time doing work in Honduras, Mexico, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
"Cheryl ... denied herself many freedoms in order to abide by Afghan law and custom," her family said.
The group's attackers, her family said, "should feel the utter shame and disgust that humanity feels for them."
These amazing people gave their lives to the cause of making others' lives better. The church is full of such incredible individuals even though you wouldn't know it from reading the ugly and ignorant tirades of people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. It's no wonder the Taliban feared them. There's little in the Muslim faith that compares in attractiveness to the self-emptying love they manifested every day, and the beauty of the faith that animates such men and women must be a powerful allure to the people they serve, particularly in contrast to the fear, violence, and oppression that the Islamists offer as an alternative.
Perhaps their murderers were correct, though, in one respect. These aid workers were indeed "preaching" Christianity. St. Francis famously enjoined believers to preach the Gospel without ceasing .... and to sometimes even use words. That appears to be exactly what they were doing. For the sake of the world may God continue to produce people like them.RLC