News Articles

U.S. Embassy condemns murders, SBC leaders send condolences

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The U.S. Embassy in San’a, Yemen, condemned the Dec. 30 murders of three Southern Baptist humanitarian aid workers and the wounding of a fourth while SBC leaders responded with an outpouring of support for International Mission Board personnel.

“We condemn the attack on American citizens. We have long been providing humanitarian services to Yemeni citizens at the Baptist Hospital in Jibla,” an embassy official responded in a prepared statement. “The American Embassy in San’a, extends its deepest condolences to the victims and their families. Embassy personnel have been sent to Jibla to assist American citizens there and to assist in the investigation of this crime. We call upon the Yemeni government to bring those responsible to justice. We are advising American citizens in Yemen to enhance their personal security and are requesting additional protection for American citizens in Yemen.”

The three workers were killed Dec. 30 when a lone gunman attacked a Baptist hospital in Jibla, Yemen.

Hospital administrator William E. Koehn, business manager Kathleen Gariety and physician Martha C. Myers were killed. Pharmacist Donald W. Caswell was injured in the early morning attack.

Reuters reported the gunman confessed to being a member of the Islamic Jihad group and said he shot the workers and he wanted to “cleanse his religion and get closer to God.”

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the murderous attack “underscores the terrible evil of terrorism and its gross disrespect for human life under whatever banner it may do its dastardly deeds.

“My heart is grieved for these brave Christian missionaries who were only seeking to help alleviate the physical suffering of the Yemeni people,” Land said. “We should all pray for their loved ones and for the Yemeni people who will no longer benefit from their tender and loving care.”

Gary Smith, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and pastor of Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said the tragedy should serve as a reminder of the “great courage of our missionaries and how necessary it is for our churches to support them and pray for them.

“We are discovering there is a new depth of commitment from people surrendering to missions,” he said. “They want to go to a difficult place. They are challenged. And I think it is evidence of God moving among our people who want to fulfill the Great Commission.

“We need to be aware that the reason we send missionaries is that there are terrorists and ungodly people in the world,” Smith added. “What we are doing is what God called us to do — to take the gospel into the dark world.”

James T. Draper, Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press in a telephone interview from Dallas that the deaths should challenge all Christians to a deeper faith and commitment in Jesus Christ.

“I think this is a wakeup call for the church,” Draper said. “It’s a reminder that Christianity is more than just going to church and going through the motions. Most of us in America are caught up in the traditions of how we do church. But life and death hang in the balance for all of us. People without Christ need to be saved and we need to be about that business.”

Draper said he was watching CNN when he learned of the tragedy. He telephoned IMB president Jerry Rankin and spoke with Rankin’s wife, Bobbye, on Dec. 30. “We assured her that the LifeWay family is lifting up the IMB in prayers,” Draper said. “And we have offered to provide whatever assistance they may need.

“We grieve with our missionaries’ families of those who died,” Draper said. “I thought Dr. Rankin showed a strong testimony by affirming on CNN that we are not going to give up our ministry there. Christianity calls us to love our enemies and God is going to honor that.”

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., expressed great sadness in response to the murder of Gariety, a former student at the school.

“Her murder at the hands of a terrorist, along with the murder of two others at the hospital in Yemen, adds three names to the list of missionary martyrs who have laid down their lives for the cause of the Gospel,” Mohler said. “These missionaries went in peace to minister through medical mercy in Christ’s name.”

“The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary shares the grief of these martyrs’ families, and we especially honor Kathleen Gariety as an alumnus whose example will embolden our own witness to Christ,” Mohler added. “Thanks be to God, these martyrs did not die in vain. Even in death, they bear witness to Christ, and share in His victory over death and the grave.”

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church, told Baptist Press he hopes the murders will serve as a wakeup call to the convention.

“All missions-minded Christians grieve with the families and, at the same time, pray that the death of these martyrs will be a wakeup call to our convention to refocus on what matters most — the Great Commandment and Great Commission,” he said. “We all need the same clear purpose that these missionaries had. The words witness and martyr come from the same Greek word. If we are serious about sharing Christ we must be ready to sacrifice, just as these wonderful people did.”
With additional reporting from Tom Strode and Michael Foust.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes