Prominent in yesterday’s headlines around the world was news of a brutal and senseless attack on World Vision building near Oghi town in Mansehra district on North West Frontier Province, 65 km north of Islamabad. Up to 15 suspected Islamic militants riding pick-up vehicles descended on the building, armed with guns and grenades.
One staff person reported that they were all gathered into one room at gunpoint. Some were taken from there to another, shot and killed. News reports suggest six World Vision staff, all Pakistani nationals, were murdered in the attack. Others were wounded, and at least one is reported missing.
World Vision has been working in the area since 2005, following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million more homeless. They have remained active, despite a series of attacks by militants against foreign aid groups in the past few years, incidents that have led many of the charities to discontinue their operations there.
To militant groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda, aid groups are seen as a threat to their authority and dominance, because they work to alleviate poverty and desperation, two weapons key to their rule. And because they are there to serve, to relieve suffering and to work for peace, they are also considered easy targets.
Christ’s call to us to share in his mission, his vision, his passion for people is the greatest calling imaginable, but it is not without cost. He assured us it wouldn’t be so. Our brothers and sisters in Pakistan knew this to be so – in a way most of us here in Canada can scarcely understand. They knew that to carry out Christ’s work of compassion in an area surrounded by militant groups carried great risk. They had seen the price paid by others, but they remained faithful.
Today, we mourn the loss of these brothers and sisters. We pray for the injured, and for those who are missing. We stand alongside their families and seek God’s peace, comfort and protection. We pray for the insurgents, whose hearts we know are not beyond God’s reach. We stand in solidarity with our friends at World Vision around the world.
And we are deeply, deeply inspired - by courage in the face of a danger that is foreign to many of us; by a passion to serve and minister to the poor and hurting, in spite of the cost; and we are grateful for these individuals, who in their lives and deaths, exemplify commitment to the gospel of Christ.