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August 8th, 2010
03:53 PM ET

Dispatch: Church mourns congregant killed in Afghanistan

CNN producer Ross Levitt filed this report from an upstate New York church that lost a congregant in last week's attack on aid workers in Afghanistan:

More than 400 people gathered Sunday at Loudonville Community Church in Loudonville, New York, to honor Tom Little (pictured with wife Libby), an optometrist who was among 10 people in a medical team killed by gunmen in northeastern Afghanistan.

"Four weeks ago, Tom Little stood right here," an emotional Stan Key, senior pastor, told the congregation.

The church had printed Wednesday in its weekly worship guide, "Praise the Lord that Tom's ministry in conducting outpatient clinics ... in a remote village was successful. God protected Tom and his team."

Key said he decided to leave it in the guide even after hearing the news of Little's death.

"We were personally impacted... we're talking about martyrdom here," Key added.

Dr. Tom Hale, a medical relief worker himself, told the crowd Little's death was not in vain. "This was not a waste," he said emphatically. "This is an enormous loss. Many of us are angry."

He said the people in the village Little visited begged him to go there.

Hale's voice choked with emotion as he asked for prayer for "this intense and shocking loss."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Afghanistan • Christianity • Missionaries • Violence

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Smith in Oregon

    Pushing Muslims to leave Islam and embrace Christianity carrys a death sentence in Islamic ruled countrys across the Middle East. Muslims that leave Islam to embrace Christianity also carrys a death sentence in Islamic ruled countrys. Missionary groups spewing bible verses and passing out Christian tracts are seen as a distinct danger to the residents of that village as well as to themselves across Afghanistan. When Christian Missionary groups ignore those facts, bad things happen.

    August 14, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  2. SR

    I am sure all the apologists and "moderates" of Islam will say the same thing as the mother of this extremist says at the bottom of this article. We need Americans of all religions to wake up to the threat from Islam even as it increases every day. Remember, the "moderates" in Nazism probably said the same thing to the Jews: Don't worry, it's not us, just the extremists.

    From Reuters today:
    "New al Qaeda chief lived in U.S. for years

    Familiarity with America seen as a problem by FBI agent

    Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, is a suspected al Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the U.S. The FBI says he has become chief of the terror network's global operations. (FBI via Associated Press)

    By Curt Anderson

    MIAMI | A suspected al Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the U.S. has become chief of the terror network's global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks.

    Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told the Associated Press in an exclusive interview. That puts him in regular contact with al Qaeda's senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, Mr. LeBlanc said.

    Shukrijumah and two other leaders were part of an "external operations council" that designed and approved terrorism plots and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in U.S. drone attacks, leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief and successor to Mohammed — his former boss.

    "He's making operational decisions is the best way to put it," said Mr. LeBlanc, the FBI's lead Shukrijumah investigator. "He's looking at attacking the U.S. and other Western countries. Basically through attrition, he has become his old boss."

    The FBI has been searching for Shukrijumah since 2003. He is thought to be the only al Qaeda leader to have once held permanent U.S. resident status.

    Shukrijumah was named earlier this year in a federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York's subway system in 2009. The indictment marked the first criminal charges against Shukrijumah, who previously had been sought only as a witness.

    Shukrijumah is also suspected of playing a role in plotting of potential al Qaeda bomb attacks in Norway and a never-executed attack on subways in the United Kingdom, but Mr. LeBlanc said no direct link has yet emerged. Travel records and other evidence also indicate Shukrijumah did research and surveillance in spring 2001 for a never-attempted plot to disrupt commerce in the Panama Canal by sinking a freighter there, Mr. LeBlanc said.

    Shukrijumah, who trained at al Qaeda's Afghanistan camps in the late 1990s, was labeled a "clear and present danger" to the U.S. in 2004 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture and the FBI also is releasing an age-enhanced photo of what he may look like today.

    It's natural he would focus on attacking the U.S.Mr. LeBlanc said.

    "He knows how the system works. He knows how to get a driver's license. He knows how to get a passport," Mr. LeBlanc said.

    Shukrijumah's mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, said Thursday on the front stoop of her small home in suburban Miramar, Fla., that her son frequently talked about what he considered the excesses of American society — such as alcohol and drug abuse and women wearing skimpy clothing — but that he did not condone violence. She also said she has not had contact with her son for several years.

    "This boy would never do evil stuff. He is not an evil person," she said. "He loved this country. He never had a problem with the United States."

    August 10, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  3. Mark from Middle River

    Smith – Ok but can you speak on the folks killed trying to do good in that region of the world? You know .... The subject of this blog ?

    You have opinions on how things got so messed up in that region, which must have been totally peaceful before us evil Americans came on the scene. Now can we have a opinion on the lives that were lost of those that came as doctors to help people of that region, with some doing good works for over a decade?

    It's easy to point out the bad for some folks but Smith can we even get a "but these folks where there to rebuild the positive image of America ?l

    August 8, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You said, "It's easy to point out the bad for some folks but Smith can we even get a "but these folks where there to rebuild the positive image of America ?l"

      Having read the article, I don't think America's image entered the picture. I think this was proselytizing. Missionaries always offer something their would-be converts want or need. Then comes the Jesus spiel. The price of lunch.

      The Muslim countries have made it clear, they are happy with their religion. Christians have no proof that their god is any less real than the Islamic god.

      Cheers!

      August 9, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • Smith in Oregon

      When American teams went into Pakistan to help thousands of Afghanistan children whose legs were blown off by stepping on American and Russian mines, they were well received in the 1980's BECAUSE Pakistan and Afghanistan didn't see Americans as the occupiers. After 30 years of Afghanistan civilians being harassed, tormented and blown up, anyone would be hard pressed to find a single village in all of Afghanistan that had not lost a wife, man or child to a American bomb provided to Pakistan during that 10 year cycle, or now during this 9 year cycle. There is no improving America's image in Afghanistan as it continues to occupy that country and prop up a corrupt dictatorship government.

      August 9, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • Gary

      Mark whats up man....David go easy on middle river Mark ..he is a good guy !

      August 10, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  4. Kate

    Wow, a typical politically correct liberal has to run his mouth on CNN. You state these points as if it is fact so my question is...who told you this? Dr. Woo was not religious so quit trying to assume all Christians are Bible thumpers.

    August 8, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • Smith in Oregon

      Kate, I posted so many facts which ones are you questioning? That the medical team was not Christians? There are dozens of 'Christian' civilian teams in Afghanistan, you actually think this single group were the only ones? Unless this medical team were jumped by mere bandits and refused to provide them with the money being demanded, it is entirely likely a village leader observed members of this 'medical team' bible thumping, quoting bible verses and called upon the local Taliban to determine and settle the issue. The Taliban came as requested, determined this medical team were bible thumping and quoting bible verses to the Afghanistan people and were executed in carrying out their judgement against them.

      Kate, it appears they were judged, determined to be guilty and were executed in carrying out the penalty's and sentencing against them. You are questioning the Village elders and leaders that called the Taliban to come and judge the team based on teaching Christianity?

      August 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  5. Smith in Oregon

    IIf Christian verses spewed around me are not seen nor perceived to have been uttered as a curse or urge to cause me or loved ones harm then I personally do not care. Others are far less tolerant however. Do I think shooting a bible thumper is extreme? Yes, but I don't carry a machine gun either. Virtually all Christian US Military clergy urges their followers to go out and murder a rag-head, blast those Ayatollahs and get some. I do not see any discernible difference from what Military Chaplin's tell the troops to do to 'the enemy's'.

    The lines have indeed become blurred over the crass US Military's broad description of 'The Taliban' which undoubtedly now consists of many angry Afghanistan people whose children and wives were murdered by American and NATO soldiers either on purpose or by faulty information. The corruption within the 'shake and bake' Karzai government's regional branches appears to be so extreme, the village and city residents overwhelming chose the Taliban as being less 'corrupt'. Yes, I fully agree, any groups of bandits or even misdeeds by an American or NATO platoon is going to be blamed on 'The Taliban'.

    While the majority of Afghanistan people are largely uneducated, many of them are fully aware of America's co-creation with Pakistan to produce Al Qaeda and 'The Taliban' in the 1980's to fight the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. 30 Years of Afghanistan women, children and men being blown up, harassed, tortured and merely surviving because of America's involvement in that region, right or wrong the Afghanistan people are largely becoming less than tolerant of anyone they see as being a occupier and a outsider.

    August 8, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
  6. Tim Grunditz

    My heart breaks for this dear guy's family, but what an honor dying for something that actually matters. Most people have nothing to live for, much less something to die for. This guy choose to live a life for others, forsaking his own safety, and ultimately forsaking his own life for the physical needs of those he didn't even know. I wish more people would take such a selfless path in their lives. I hope those "brothers do hear about Jesus" and that they would experience a life that matters.

    August 8, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Be of good cheer! I made 2 funnies. Did you read 'em? Laughter takes the sting away. Cheers!

      Are you old enough to know who Gilda Radner was? She made that "Never Mind" line famous. I loved Gilda. She made me laugh.

      Don't be sad. Those brothers are followers of the Muslim faith.

      August 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • TB

      David Johnson: First rule of comedy: if you have to explain the joke, it isn't funny.

      August 8, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @TB

      You said, "David Johnson: First rule of comedy: if you have to explain the joke, it isn't funny."

      I am deeply wounded!

      August 9, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  7. David Johnson

    Rumor has it, that Tom had misplaced his own glasses. When the Taliban showed up, Tom mistook them for some of the villagers. He greeted them with the phrase, "Brothers, have you heard about Jesus?" LOL. LOL 'till my sides ache.

    August 8, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • riverrunner

      source? probably you starting the rumor. I was friends with one of the people who was murdered and I seriously doubt he was religious at all. he just loved dentistry and helping people who most needed it.

      why do you people believe the taliban? the same guy later said they were spying for america. do you believe that?

      August 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @riverrunner

      I, in no way uphold the Taliban. They are liars and commit horrible atrocities.

      They murdered people whose only apparent crime, was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

      But, don't you think the fellow who climbs into the lion's cage deserves some of the blame for his mauling?

      The Muslims are happy with their religion. They warn people to not come to preach. I think the missionaries should have listened.

      Still, I am deeply sorry for the families.

      August 9, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  8. David Johnson

    Well, Mom always said, "Don't proselytize in the Muslim countries."

    The article said, "The church had printed Wednesday in its weekly worship guide, "Praise the Lord that Tom's ministry in conducting outpatient clinics ... in a remote village was successful. God protected Tom and his team."

    In next Wednesday's worship guide, you will find a quote from the late Gilda Radner, "Never mind!"

    So how would this tragedy have looked any different, if there was no god?

    August 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • TB

      This tradgedy wouldn't have happened at all. There wouldn't have been a Great Commission, and this man would have had no reason to share Christ's love through service to others.

      August 9, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • David Johnson

      @TB

      You said, "This tradgedy wouldn't have happened at all. There wouldn't have been a Great Commission, and this man would have had no reason to share Christ's love through service to others."

      There are 5 main religions. There are over a thousand different Christian denominations. They can't all be the one true faith. But, they can all be wrong.

      The Muslims are also "commissioned" to spread the Islamic faith. Bet you don't think their "commission" is from god.

      Hmm...so we are left with the fellow going to Afghanistan to share Christ's love through service to others. A commission which might or might not have come from Christ.

      So how would this tragedy have looked any different, if there was no god? Ans. – It would look just like it looks. Cheers!

      August 9, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • TB

      @ David Johnson

      If we follow your logic, there is no tragedy, because his life is of no relevance.

      With regard to the rest of your post:

      There are three primary monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all of which point to the same God revealed in different ways. There is one primary pantheistic religious tradition, Hinduism. Then there is Bhuddism, which is largely atheistic, and so should not be included in your list. Did you intend to reference a different one from those listed?

      You appear to argue that religious plurality is, on its face, evidence that all versions are wrong. Interesting logic, but it does not hold up well. Since humans are all flawed, the application of God's Word can be flawed even if the Word is 100% correct.

      Muslim's believe that all people, having been created by God, are Muslim, and non-believers simply haven't recognized this yet. I don't hold this to be God's truth insomuch as it refutes Jesus' claims.

      If the Commission came not from Christ, then whom? If one argues that the apostles made it up, one should identify why they made up a story that, essentially, got them all killed (except John).

      August 9, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @TB

      If there is one and only one true god, then all religions cannot be true (mutually exclusive). But, this does not mean even one of them has to be right (the list is not collectively exhaustive). They could indeed be all wrong, i.e. there is no god. or even, we haven't yet "discovered" the one true god. I believe some think Krishna is the one true god and if any prayers are answered in any faith, they are answered by Krishna.

      You said, " If the Commission came not from Christ, then whom? If one argues that the apostles made it up, one should identify why they made up a story that, essentially, got them all killed (except John)."

      The entire New Testament was made up to "prove" Jesus was the messiah and to start the Christian religion. I submit the commission was a membership drive and not truly commissioned by anyone or any god.

      There is no more proof for Christianity than for any other religion. The proof boils down to what is written in the bible and that feeling you get in your heart when you pray. The Muslims and the Jews and the Hindus and the Buddhists have their own religious texts. They have their own feelings. Every Christian denomination can show you verses in the bible that show their denomination is most loved by the baby Jesus. So, why is what you believe special? Where's your proof?

      If all gods are products of man's imagination, how would the world look different? Would the world have different beliefs, religious wars, etc.?

      You said,

      August 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  9. PeteM

    I guess this is where everybody is expected to point at the killers for killing instead of at what made them kill.
    Release the lions!

    August 8, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • Victoria

      How dare you defend the killers over the victims! And who are you insinuating made them kill? Please don't tell me you hold these individuals personally responsible for their untimely deaths.

      August 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.