October 8, round the clock prayers intensified for twenty-four Christian aid workers held in a prison of the country’s ruling Taliban regime.
In Britain the United Christian Broadcasters, Europe’s leading Christian network, aired a special report about their situation as part of its continuing effort to direct Christians’ prayers towards Afghanistan. Following news about the first strikes Sunday, October 7, Christians in the United States have sent e-mail messages to BosNewsLife expressing their plan to intensify their prayers. They include staff members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes -in Kansas City- site of the FCA World Headquarters-, as well as the home church of the two American women, Heather Mercer (24) and Dayna Curry (29).
Although Mercer, Curry and at least six other Western aid workers faced another night of bombardments behind bars, the American’s home church continued to pray for them. In a statement obtained by ASSIST News Service, Pastor Jimmy Seibert of the Antioch Community Church in Waco Texas said that his congregation is "trusting in God and relying on Him to be their protector." Seibert, who has set up a 24-hour prayer network, stressed that both women "have had ups and downs emotionally and physically as is common to any process of detainment, especially in a country like Afghanistan."
But he made clear that the two women "would gladly give their very lives that people would know how much Jesus loves them." Pastor Seibert suggested their faith in Christ was their main motivation to work for the German based charity Shelter Now, which has helped tens of thousands of refugees and street kids. However Shelter Now officials have made it clear that the women and other staff members did not actively convert Muslims, as suggested by the Taliban regime. The organization says that Christian materials discovered by the feared religious police were for personal use only.
Preaching the Gospel in Afghanistan could carry the death penalty under the regime’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, especially for the sixteen Afghan workers, who are held separately from their eight Western colleagues. The aid workers were believed to be kept awake in their prison cells by the sounds of a relentless bombardment by American air forces on suspected terrorist and military sites in and around Kabul, the Afghan capital, where power has been cut.
United States Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld told reporters in Washington that the new operations would include night-time strikes by Stealth bombers. In addition there would be more high-altitude flights by military cargo planes, dropping food packages to thousands of starving Afghan refugees inside the country, the Voice of America reported.
Rumsfeld added that cruise missiles would again be launched from warships and submarines in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Britain, which was part of Sunday’s strikes, is not taking part in Monday’s operations. Reports from the ground said that raids have struck at targets in the capital, Kabul, and the cities of Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kunduz.
Power was cut in Kabul shortly after the attack there. At the same time the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance has launched attacks against Taliban forces in the northern part of the country. The new strikes began exactly 24 hours after the U.S.-British alliance launched coordinated strikes against military targets and suspected terrorist camps.
Taliban officials have said that dozens of people "including women and children" were killed in the attacks, but those reports have been difficult to verify independently. US President George W. Bush ordered the attacks because the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, which investigators have linked to last month’s deadly terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington. The Bush administration has not ruled out attacks against other countries suspected of harboring terrorists, as part of its global war against terror. Israel, NATO allies and European leaders have expressed their full support for the military operations.