ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (BP)–Three Christian aid workers were found dead in Pakistan after being kidnapped by members of the Pakistani Taliban. The aid workers were responding to millions of people in need after monsoon rains caused catastrophic flooding.
The Pakistan Army recovered the bodies Aug. 25 and sent them to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Military officials granted permission to Compass Direct News to publish limited information about the tragedy.
A local official told Compass Direct that the aid workers were returning to their base the evening of Aug. 23 when Taliban members attacked their vehicle. About five people were injured, the official said, and three workers were kidnapped and later killed.
The Taliban had threatened attacks on foreign aid workers and Christian organizations, and humanitarian groups had increased security. Pakistan had deployed troops to the region to help protect aid workers.
A month after flooding began, an estimated 1,600 people have died. More than 17 million have been affected, and nearly 5 million of those lack shelter, The Washington Post reported. More than 800,000 were stranded in areas without supplies.
Pakistan’s government reported that 1.2 million houses, 10,000 schools, 35 bridges and 9 percent of the national highway system were damaged or destroyed, and social and economic systems across the country have been stunted or annihilated, The Post said.
The Taliban reportedly has viewed the flooding as an opportunity to gain support from the Pakistani population by offering relief assistance while at the same time telling foreign aid workers to leave.
Compass Direct also mentioned possible discrimination against Christians in the distribution of humanitarian aid. Rizwan Paul, president of an advocacy organization called Life for All, said Christians in Punjab Province have been severely neglected.
“Christians living around Maralla, Narowal and Shakargarh were shifted to the U.N.-administered camps, but they are facing problems in the camps,” Paul told Compass Direct. “There are reports that the Christians are not given tents, clean water and food. In most of the camps the Christians have totally been ignored.”
Paul added that in other areas Christians were living on damaged roads in temporary tents, not being allowed into government camps.
“It is discouraging to see that the Christian organizations are wholeheartedly supporting the victims regardless of the religion or race, but in most of the areas the Christians are totally ignored and not even allowed to stay,” Kashif Mazhar, vice president of Life for All, told Compass Direct.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.