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Jailed Americans still in Afghanistan

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Christine Owen, Editor in Chief

Christine Owen, Editor in Chief

The Los Angeles Times could not have explained the situation any better when it reported in its Sept. 16 issue, “Amid the grieving for thousands of American victims of terrorism and the clamor for revenge, the fate of two U.S. aid workers imprisoned in Afghanistan has all but been forgotten.”

With all of the political turmoil that is currently taking place between the United States and Afghanistan, it is important to remember that there are still two Americans under arrest in Afghanistan being held by the Taliban and unaware of whether they will live or die.

Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer work for Shelter Now International, a Christian relief agency that provides food and shelter for poor Afghans. They were arrested along with six other Western aid workers and charged with attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity.

It is unpleasant to think about what life would be like in Afghanistan right now for an American incarcerated there. All U.S. diplomats left the capital city of Kabul at the order of the Taliban because the ruling militia group claims that it will not be able to protect them in case of an attack. Even the Red Cross, which normally remains in a country in the event of a crisis, was ordered to leave. However, Curry and Mercer are still in custody.

The two have been assigned a Pakistani lawyer who specializes in Islamic law and human rights law. If convicted of spreading Christianity, they could be sentenced to death.

Mercer’s father John is waiting in Pakistan and has repeatedly asked the Taliban to let him take his daughter’s place in jail. He has not received a response from the Taliban.

Because this story has not received a lot of attention in the media, the seriousness of the situation might not be realized by the general public. Hopefully the political powerhouses that are making the decisions for our country in this time of crisis will take under consideration what will happen to two Americans if we attack Afghanistan.

Although tragic to think about, it is possible that the Taliban could use Curry and Mercer as political chess pieces to deter the U.S. from attacking them. What decision would be made if the Taliban told President Bush that if the United States attacks Afghanistan, Curry and Mercer will be tortured and killed? This is not a pleasant situation to think about, but if John Mercer has already offered to switch places in jail with his daughter, one can assume that he has already played this scenario out in his mind.

John Mercer is probably not at all reassured by President Bush’s admission that he had ordered the military to shoot down hijacked commercial airliners, namely United Airlines Flight 93, in order to protect the Capital. Flight 93 later crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania.

Regarding the decision to shoot down hijacked airplanes, Bush said, “I wasn’t concerned about my decision. I was more concerned about the lives of innocent Americans,” as reported in the Sept. 17 issue of the Los Angeles Times.

Right now there are two more innocent Americans who are being held against their will in Afghanistan.

As Americans in New York and across the nation try to settle back into their daily routines, it is important that the liberties and freedoms enjoyed by all every day are not taken for granted.

Although they have not been convicted on any charges, the very reason that Curry and Mercer were arrested should make every American grateful that they will never be arrested on American soil for preaching a religion, no matter how unpopular it may be.

America was founded by Protestants, but citizens are free to practice whatever religion they choose and to preach their message as loud as they want. Even groups that preach messages of hate and racism are protected by the first amendment despite how unpopular their messages are.

However, in Afghanistan, the rules are drastically different and freedom of speech is something that its citizens do not enjoy, and neither do American visitors.

Christine Owen, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at owenc@ulv.edu.

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