Perseverance

Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman were abducted by the Taliban five years ago while traveling in Afghanistan. The couple was expecting their first child at the time at the time. Caitlan gave birth to three children during captivity. Caitlan is from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. Joshua is from Canada.

The family was finally freed this month. They were being held in Pakistan, whose government is to be commended for tracking the hostages and discovering them in the tribal areas October 11th.

The couple was on an adventure, traveling through Russia and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then Afghanistan. Sources say she was already seven months pregnant.

Caitlan wrote a letter home in July 2016 informing her family of the birth of a second child in which she wrote, “I pray to hear from you again, to hear how everybody is doing.”

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political hostage – its official

The Turkish President confirmed publicly that a US pastor jailed in Turkey for the past 12 months is being held by his government as a political hostage. Erdoğan  called on the United States to exchange Andrew Brunson for Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish citizen living in exile in the US since 1999, who is accused of masterminding last year’s failed coup.

Turkey has launched a massive internal crackdown over the past 15 months to identify and punish the FETO (Fethullah Terror Organisation) network accused of infiltrating Turkey’s armed forces and government. More than 50,000 “suspected” judges, prosecutors, soldiers, academics, journalists, human rights activists and police officers have been jailed, held for months in pretrial detention.

Brunson had lived in Turkey for 23 years, involved in legally recognized church-related ministries. Two months after his surprise detention in the port city of Izmir, where he led the small Izmir Resurrection Church, he was formally arrested on accusations of involvement in unspecified “terrorism” activities.  Now an Izmir court has added charges that he was spying to obtain secret political and military information to “overthrow the Turkish government” and undermine the country’s constitutional order.

Stanislav Petrov

He was on duty at a secret command center in Moscow when an alarm went off, signalling the United States had launched intercontinental ballistic missiles.

That night this man changed the course of human history.  Instead of reporting an imminent attack by the US on the Soviet Union, he reported a system malfunction. Subsequent investigation proved he was right.

However, had he reported the Soviet Union was under attack by the US, it would have launched its own missiles. That would have ended the world as we know it now.

So thank you Mr. Petrov.

a single bullet was fired

Only one round was fired by the man in the wheelchair.  A victim of polio, he had been   receiving services since he was two at the hospital where he fired his weapon. His target was his therapist,  Lorena Enebral Perez, 38, of Spain. The perpetrator had an accomplice, another Afghan paralyzed by polio.

She arrived in in Afghanistan in May 2016 to work with the Red Cross. She was at the rehabilitation center in Mazar-i-Sharif to treat disabled children, women and men, including amputees from war.  Before coming to Afghanistan she helped patients in Malawi, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.

Neither the Taliban nor the Islamic state has claimed responsibility for this murder, but the local police are blaming IS jihadists.

Lorena died from that single bullet, fired by someone she was sincerely trying to help.

Her death follows the killings in February of six International Red Cross staff shot in northern Afghanistan; two were abducted in that attack.  It comes six days after their release following close to seven months in captivity, and three days after an ICRC truck driver was shot and killed in South Sudan.

looting and shooting up hospitals

In the last 18 months, dozens of medical facilities in South Sudan have been looted.  One was a clinic based in a tent operated by International Medical Corps (IMC). Others were operated by Doctors without Borders. The head of Doctors Without Borders said armed groups have looted two dozen of the aid group’s medical facilities in South Sudan during the past 18 months. Waring parties are targeting medical facilities rather than protecting them.

Half way around the world in Guatemala City, members of the notorious MS-13 gang attacked a hospital to recover a gang leader serving a sentence for murder. He was taken to the hospital under guard for medical tests.  In the process of getting him, the gang killed 7 or 8 people, including 2 children. Another child is in critical condition.

Hospitals are the legacy of Western Christian civilization. In the ancient world, there were a few physicians for the wealthy.  The poor were often abandoned by their families when they became ill.

In 370, Basil of Caesarea used his personal fortune to found a hospital for the care of the sick and even outcasts.  This was the first hospital in history.  Over the centuries that followed, many hospitals were founded in Christian places, and then gradually spread around the world.

In the war between good and evil, the front line runs right through hospital wards.

check your carry on bags

Pavon Prison, 12 miles southeast of the Guatemalan capital Guatemala City. It is the new residence of Zackary Wilson,  a short term missionary from the US.

What kind of a place is Pavon? Last year, a riot erupted at the prison. It killed four people, including four who were beheaded. The violence started from Lima forbidding a rival gang from selling drugs inside the prison.  Lima, a former military officer, was serving a sentence for bludgeoning a bishop to death with a concrete block, one of the more notorious crimes in Guatemalan history.  The bishop was murdered two days after he presented testimony about atrocities committed by the military in Guatemala’s civil war, mainly against indigenous populations.  The leader of the rival gang, drug trafficker Marvin Montiel Marin, was sentenced to serve 820 years behind bars for the murder of 15 Nicaraguans and a Dutchman on a bus carrying cocaine.  One of the people who died in the riot was a model who visited Lima monthly.

Pavon is now Zackary Wilson’s place of residence. Zack was with a church group on a week long mission trip when his nightmare began. On his way through airport security to  come back home to the US, authorities found ammunition in his backpack.  According to Zack’s family, he hunts and it was an honest mistake.  Apparently, the backpack arrived into Guatemala in checked luggage.

Zack has been charged with terrorism which carries a 15-year sentence. His trial will be held in September or maybe October. Until then, Zack has to pay for the cost of his incarceration at Pavon.  Seeking treatment for his chronic ulcerative colitis at a private hospital will cost $5000.  His US medical insurance doesn’t cover it.

Knowing what is in your bags before going through airport security is a lesson for all of us.  Read the fine print on your travel insurance. It might not cover you in the event you are charged with a crime.

Pray for Zack, his wife and two small children. And no, the US Embassy has no magic way to get Zack out of Pavon.

 

 

very sad

Otto F. Warmbier has died. He was the US college student who was held in North Korea for 17 months. He came home still in a comma he’d been in for months.

Otte was visiting China in December 2015 when he signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea with a Chinese company that advertised “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

Otte was detained at the airport when he ought to have been departing the country. His crime was an attempt to steal a propaganda sign from the hotel. According to CNN,  North Korea believed a member of the Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Ohio, promised Otte a used car worth $10,000 in exchange for retrieving a slogan-bearing sign from the communist state.

We hope CNN is wrong. We hope no member of any church would encourage a young person to steal anything – especially not in a totalitarian state.