Concerns Mount Over Kidnapped Catholic Aid Worker In Afghanistan

Source:  www.bosnewslife.com

Date:  June 23, 2016

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

NEW DELHI/KABUL (BosNewsLife)-- An abducted Catholic aid worker from India remained missing in Afghanistan Thursday, June 23, despite fresh appeals for her release. Judith D'Souza, 40, was reportedly kidnapped in the capital Kabul on June 9 by a crime group specialized in abducting foreign nationals.

"So far there is no news of her whereabouts. But we are happy with the efforts of the Indian government in trying to trace and secure her release. The Ministry of External Affairs has been constantly in touch with us," Judith's brother Jerome said in published remarks.

Attackers are believed to have abducted D'Souza while she was returning home after a dinner with a friend in the Qala-e-Fatullah area of Kabul. D'Souza, a senior advisor for aid group Aga Khan Development Network, had been working especially on reducing poverty and improving women rights as well as environmental conservation.

Before moving to Kabul, she had nearly fifteen years of experience as a social and environmental specialist in India, said William Nicholas Gomes, a prominent rights activist.

In a letter obtained by BosNewsLife, he urges Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani to work on her release. Rights activists suggest the incident is part of a wider crackdown by crime groups and Islamic militants on native and foreign Christians as well as other vulnerable groups.

ILLUSTRATING DANGERS

"The abduction of Judith D’Souza illustrates not only the dangers faced by high-profile women in Afghanistan," a heavily Islamic nation, "but the government’s failure to take concrete action to protect women under threat," Gomes wrote.

"I express grave concern for the fate and whereabouts of Judith D’Souza. I believe that her abduction is directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work," he added.

He asked authorities in Afghanistan to "take all necessary measures to locate" the missing woman and "to ensure her physical and psychological integrity and security."

Gomes said it was crucial to have an open "immediate, thorough and impartial investigation" into the abduction and to bring those responsible to justice "in accordance with international standards".

In recent days, Indian churches have been praying for the swift release of the aid worker.

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