Beliefnet
September 20, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)--Georg Taubmann is back. It wasn't even a year ago that he was flying through the freezing Afghan night, finally safe inside a U.S. helicopter after his rescue from months in a Taliban jail on charges of preaching Christianity to Muslims.

Taubmann and seven other aid workers were spirited out of Afghanistan by the Americans after they were left behind south of Kabul as the Taliban abandoned the capital under the onslaught of U.S. bombing and northern alliance foot soldiers. American special forces airlifted the group to Pakistan.

The harrowing experience - which included endless days inside insect-filled jails, weeks with American bombs falling on Kabul and the perpetual fear of execution - might have kept others from returning.

Not Taubmann. The 46-year-old German returned with his wife and 15-year-old son in the face of continued official Afghan suspicion of Christian aide workers and knowing he might again be in trouble with the law.

Taubmann said new Afghan Supreme Court Chief Justice Sheikh Hadi Shinwari called for the aid workers' case to be reopened in January. A deputy supreme court justice later confirmed that proselytizing was still a crime, but said there were no plans to reopen the case. Thus, it remains unclear if Taubmann remains in danger of court action on charges brought by the now-ousted Taliban.

``In my heart I had come to that point where I said ... we would probably not come out alive,'' Taubmann said in an interview Thursday. ``But we said if God allows us, if God gives us our lives back again, I would be willing to go back to Afghanistan again and continue our work.''

Taubmann is director of Shelter Now International, a Christian aid agency based in Germany that provides housing, food and health care in Afghanistan.

His troubles began Aug. 3, 2001, when two of Taubmann's American colleagues--Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry-- were arrested after showing an Afghan family a film about the life of Jesus.

Two days later, police raided Shelter Now International's offices and arrested Taubmann, seven other foreigners and 16 Afghan staff members. They seized what they said was Christian propaganda.

Taubmann insists the aid workers were not trying to convert Muslims, only responding to a family's request to see the film. He didn't explain how the family knew about the film.

He said he believed the aid workers were set up. But at the time, other international aid workers said they warned Shelter Now workers not to visit Afghan homes.

Police were waiting outside as the two women walked out of the Afghan family's home. Most of what the Taliban produced as evidence--an English-language Bible, a crucifix, a bookmark with a cross on it--did not belong to Shelter Now or its employees, Taubmann says. The Taliban also introduced as evidence Bibles in Pashtu and Dari, the languages of Afghanistan.

``We had nothing. Not one Bible (in the office). I did not allow it,'' he said. Taubmann acknowledged one of the American aid workers had a copy of the New Testament in Dari. He said she was using it to study the language.

Afghan court proceedings against the aid workers began Sept. 8, 2001, but the trial was quickly overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in the United States three days later. Taubmann heard news from Taliban guards.

When the U.S. bombing began Oct. 7, the case was postponed because judges said their anger at the United States would prevent a fair ruling. Months of detention followed before the Taliban cut and ran.

After his rescue, Taubmann returned to Germany, but he soon decided it was not where he belonged. On June 23, he, his wife, and their son returned to the Afghan capital. He said the decision was easily made.

``I've spent the last 18 years here (in Afghanistan and Pakistan). We went through all kinds of difficulties ... and we stayed,'' he said, reclining on an office couch, wearing traditional, loose-fitting Afghan dress.

Those difficulties have not gone away. On Aug. 5 --exactly one year after his arrest--Taubmann was in the Pakistani mountain resort of Murree, where another of his sons was enrolled in a Christian school. On that day masked gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles stormed the campus, killing six Pakistani workers before escaping. His son was not injured.

Taubmann says he feels he has a right to talk to Afghans about Christianity, if they ask him.

``We felt it under the Taliban and I feel it now, that if anybody asks us about our faith, we can talk about it. I think people have the right,'' he said.

Taubmann insists the aid workers were not trying to convert Muslims, only responding to a family's request to see the film. He didn't explain how the family knew about the film.

He said he believed the aid workers were set up. But at the time, other international aid workers said they warned Shelter Now workers not to visit Afghan homes.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus