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Church condemns killing of aid worker as ‘offence against God’


The United Reformed Church in Great Britain has condemned as "an offence against God" the assassination of Gayle Williams, a 34-year-old Christian aid worker in Kabul, and the chilling comments of those who said they killed her.

The Rev. John Marsh, moderator of the general assembly of the United Reformed Church, said in a 21 October statement, "It is deeply sad and sickening that Gayle Williams has been deliberately targeted as a Christian, and gunned down in the streets of Kabul. She had been welcomed into Afghanistan, and was working with Serve Afghanistan, a trusted organization, bringing skilled assistance to people with disabilities."

Williams, a dual national of South Africa and Britain, worked with disabled children for Serve Afghanistan. On 20 October, two men on a motorcycle gunned her down as she walked to work in the Afghan capital.

The aid worker’s mother, Pat Williams, who lives in London, told reporters, "Gayle was serving a people that she loved, and felt God called her to be there for such a time as this. We know her life was blessed, and she was a blessing to those around her … No one could have asked for a more humble daughter with a more loving heart. She died doing what she felt the Lord had called her to do, and she is definitely with him."

Gayle Williams’ sister, Karen, who lives in Johannesburg, was expected to join her mother for the funeral and burial of Gayle at the Christian cemetery in Kabul. Williams was educated in South Africa and Britain, and then studied at the University of Zululand for a degree in occupational therapy.

A statement released on the Serve Afghanistan Web site, said, "Gayle will be remembered as one of the inspiring people of the world. She was killed violently while caring for the most forgotten people in the world: the poor and the disabled."

The Associated Press news agency quoted Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, as saying, "We killed her for spreading Christian propaganda. This woman came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan. Our [leaders] issued a decree to kill this woman.”

Serve Afghanistan, a British-registered charity, rejected this claim. Its chairperson, Mike Lyth, said, "We are Christian; that is what gives us the motivation to go into a dangerous and difficult country to try to help." He said the organization had a policy against proselytising.

The URC’s Marsh said, "We will also pray for the families and individuals in Kabul, who delighted in and depended upon her skills, and the people who actually killed her and those who support them … We pray with all Christians, Muslims and people of faith … for whom this is an offence against God and a violation of all that their spiritual traditions mean."

The Rev. Peter Colwell, convenor of the URC’s inter-faith relations committee, noted, "Like Christians, the vast majority of Muslims abhor this kind of violence. Some Taliban factions operate far outside mainstream views and actions. The Taliban are not a single united entity."

When news of the killing broke, Colwell was attending a World Council of Churches-convened ecumenical consultation near Geneva, on Christian attitudes to Islam. In the consultation’s keynote address, Catholicos Aram, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s Catholicosate of Cilicia, in Lebanon, said that prevailing misperceptions and polarisation between Muslims and Christians, which are hijacked by ideological agendas, could be transformed only through a shared life in community.

(c) Ecumenical News International