United Methodist Afghan Expert Killed in Early-August Massacre

August 19, 2010

By Elliott Wright

New York, NY | A United Methodist layman who devoted his life to the people of Afghanistan was among the 10 persons killed on August 6 as the group returned to the city of Kabul from an eye care camp in a remote northeast part of the country.
Daniel Terry, 64, had been in Afghanistan for 40 years, more than 30 of those under the auspices of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. He and his wife, Seija, raised their three girls there and called Afghanistan home.
"It is almost beyond belief that Dan Terry would be murdered in Afghanistan," said Thomas Kemper, chief executive of Global Ministries. "He loved the country with a passion and worked tirelessly on behalf of its most marginalized communities. He was fluent in multiple regional languages and was expert in helping the staff of international nonprofit organizations understand and respect the culture."
Those killed included six Americans, two Afghans, one German, and one doctor from the United Kingdom.
Terry was supported by Global Ministries and seconded for community development work to other international organizations with operations in Afghanistan.
Initial reports indicate that the group had completed an eye camp in the Parun valley of Nuristan province organized by the International Assistance Mission, an ecumenical organization engaged in health and relief work in Afghanistan. Parun is an extremely remote area, where access requires hiking over rough, mountainous terrain. After completing their work, the group decided to return by way of Badakhshan province, which was considered safer. According to an IAM spokesman quoted by the Associated Press, this is where the attack took place.
Terry's presence on the team would not have been unusual. Not only was he highly skilled in the logistics of relief, he also was a master mechanic and language interpreter.
"Dan's work related broadly to non-profit relief and medical organizations in Afghanistan," according to the Rev. Bruce Griffith, a friend of Terry and an executive with Global Ministries. "He was a United Methodist gift to the humanitarian cause in a country that has known bloodshed and pain for decades. He represented hope, peace, justice, and compassion."
Media reports stated that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the massacre, alleging that the relief group was made up of missionaries trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. The Associated Press quoted Taliban sources as claiming that the group was attacked because it was "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity." While self-identified as a Christian organization, International Assistance Mission engages in no proselytization and quickly denied the Taliban charges.
Dan Terry grew up in India, having arrived there with his parents from the United States when he was two years old. From a Kansas family, he was born in Pennsylvania in 1946. In his early years, the family traveled extensively in India and Pakistan, and drove overland to Europe, passing through Afghanistan, several times. Young Daniel fell in love with the country and moved there in the early 1970s. His father was involved in humanitarian work in Afghanistan from 1972 through 1985.
Terry's first work through Global Ministries was in logistics and construction work for a rural health project in central Afghanistan. His wife, Seija, is a nurse from Finland who went to Afghanistan in 1972. The couple married in 1976 and did graduate work in the United States, returning to Afghanistan in 1980. During the last 30 years Terry continued to provide logistical support in community health and development projects in some of the poorest and most remote regions of the country.
The Terrys and their family survived the Soviet invasion, the harsh rule of the Taliban, and the years of violence that have gripped the country since 2001.
Periodically, the Terrys traveled to the US where Dan, on behalf of the General Board of Global Ministries, would speak about humanitarian causes and peoples' lives in Afghanistan. His warm, affable manner made him a popular speaker, and he became a favorite of a large group of congregations, particularly in Florida.
Terry is survived by his wife, three adult daughters, and one grandchild.