(August 11), to prevent the execution of 24 aid workers, who have been charged by the Islamic rulers with spreading Christianity. Speaking to reporters, U.N. envoy Francesc Vendrell, said he wants to help resolve the detention of members of the German-based Christian relief agency Shelter Now International.
The organization was distributing food and running housing projects in war-ravaged Afghanistan until last Sunday, when the regime, known as the ‘Taleban’, closed its offices and detained 24 aid workers, including eight foreign nationals and 16 Afghans.
During the raid, Afghanistan’s religious police confiscated a Bible along with Christian literature as well as computer discs containing the story of the Life of Christ in the Dari language and other audio-visual material, as part of what authorities described as "evidence collected from the agency workers."
Taleban officials have accused Shelter Now International of trying to persuade Muslims to convert to Christianity, which could carry the death penalty under the regime’s strict interpretation of Islamic law. But the organization denies it was involved in preaching the Gospel, and says it merely works on the Biblical principles of helping the poor and those in need.
U.N. official Vendrell said he hopes the foreign nationals, including two Americans, four Germans, two American and two Australian detainees, will be released shortly. Earlier Taleban Shariat radio said the jailed head of Shelter Now, George Taubmann, pleaded for clemency for those foreigners arrested, and the station reported that "they were being treated well."
But Vendrell expressed concern over the fate of the detained Afghan nationals, saying they are in serious danger, as they have no representation. The U.N. envoy also said he hopes foreign diplomats will be allowed into Afghanistan to visit their nationals, shortly.
There is concern among Western diplomats about what they say is a crackdown against minority religions by the Taleban militia, which controls 95% of Afghanistan. Earlier this year, the regime a storm of international protests for destroying at least two ancient Buddhist monuments.