that it will shelter tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, who are trying to enter neighboring Pakistan ahead of a possible American military offensive against the Muslim nation.
Officials of the Church World Service relief agency told NCC’s Office of News and Information that despite the official closure of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, thousands have managed to escape.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan Director of the Church World Service (CWS), Marvin Parvez, was quoted as saying that a "very serious humanitarian crisis" was imminent.
Although several aid organizations have closed down their operations in the impoverished, war-torn, country of Afghanistan, CWS offices in Pakistan and partner programs in Afghanistan are reportedly continuing with more than 300 staff and volunteers.
CWS is the global humanitarian service and witness ministry of the (U.S.) National Council of Churches and its 36 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations.
It plans to provide over 8,000 family shelter kits to new arrivals in the border cities of Quetta and Peshawar and to provide primary shelter to approximately 50,000 persons.
However relief officials say it will be difficult to operate in Afghanistan, as the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has stopped supplying food to Afghanistan due to the severely deteriorating security situation and the lack of transportation.
There are fears that WFP’s food supplies will only last for about a month, at a time when many Afghans are already faced with starvation.
Pakistan has urged Afghanistan’s Taliban regime to avoid war by handing over Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile suspected of supporting the September 11 terrorist attacks against the US.
However Western aid workers have suggested that even without an American military assault, many relief organizations are no longer able to function in the country, following the regime’s fight against Christianity.
24 relief workers, including eight Westerners, of the Shelter Now organization were detained last month and are faced with the death penalty on charges of converting Muslims to Christianity.
The detainees have strongly denied the accusations, saying that any Bibles or other Christian materials discovered in their homes or offices were for personal use only.