Members of a medical team gunned down in Afghanistan brought some of the first toothbrushes and eyeglasses villagers had ever seen and spent no time talking about religion as they provided medical care, friends and aid organizations said Sunday.
Dr. Thomas Grams, 51, quit his dental practice in Durango, Colo., four years ago to work full-time giving impoverished children free dental care in Nepal and Afghanistan, said Katy Shaw of Global Dental Relief, a Denver-based group that sends teams of dentists around the globe. He was killed Thursday, Shaw said, along with five other Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton.
"The kids had never seen toothbrushes, and Tom brought thousands of them," said Khris Nedam, head of the Kids 4 Afghan Kids in Livonia, Mich., which builds schools and wells in Afghanistan. "He trained them how to brush their teeth, and you should've seen the way they smiled after they learned to brush their teeth."
The team was attacked after a two-week mission in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan province, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Kabul. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found Friday, and were returned to Kabul Sunday aboard helicopters.
The families of the six Americans were formally notified of their deaths after U.S. officials confirmed their identities, said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the embassy.
The Taliban has claimed credit for the attack, saying the workers were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The gunmen spared an Afghan driver who told police he recited verses from the Islamic holy book the Quran as he begged for his life.
But Grams' former partner at the Durango practice told the Associated Press Sunday that the medical group had no religious mission.
Grams had "absolutely zero interest in proselytizing," Dr. Courtney Heinicke said.
The members were working with the International Assistance Mission, or IAM, one of the longest serving non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan. The group is registered a nonprofit Christian organization but does not proselytize, said its director, Dirk Frans.
If the IAM doesn't proselytize, that makes them the rare exception to Christian aid groups. On the AIM website we see this:
IAM’s core values are:
- Dependency on God
- Love for All
- Quality Work
I'm not blaming the victims, because I have no direct knowledge of this organization, but "Dependency on God" at the top of their values list doesn't surprise me.
I do have extensive knowledge of several evangelical organizations here in So. California, and they would sooner proselytize than eat.
In fact, so sure is their faith that several of them regularly send missionaries to Central & South America to spread their version of the Gospel to the poor, ignorant, and 'unsaved' Roman Catholics living there.
In the evangelical world, "saving souls" is like collecting scalps for God. They regularly rate the success of outreach concerts and events by the number of people who respond to the "altar call" or who ask to speak to ministers after the event.
Was IAM doing this? I have no idea. If they were practicing medicine without preaching, that's nothing but noble. But if they were preaching and trying to "save souls", that would reflect the enormous hubris of the Evangelical movement in this country. Committed to faith in their God and their values to the exclusion of any acceptance of any other viewpoint.
In other words, like an American Taliban.
John Cole has the best last words:
This the kind of thing that just makes you want to bomb the Taliban back to the stone ages, which is a great thought until you realize they think the stone ages would be a mighty fine target destination.
Just get out of the region. Now.