EMU Grad Murdered In Afghanistan: Among 10 Humanitarians Killed Friday

By Jeremy Hunt, Daily News-Record

When Lisa Schirch was in Afghanistan a few weeks ago, she turned to a friend and fellow Mennonite to show her around the war-torn capital, Kabul.

Glen Lapp, EMU grad, in Afghanistan
Glen Lapp in Afghanistan (photo courtesy of Lisa Schirch)

Glen Lapp, a nurse, was the only other Mennonite she knew in Kabul, but they had more in common than a faith. They both shared a desire to help Afghans make their country a better, more peaceful place.

What Schirch could not have known at the time was that it would be the last time she would see her friend, a 1991 Eastern Mennonite University graduate.

Lapp’s life was cut short on Friday, when he and nine other aid workers with a Christian charity were gunned down in northern Afghanistan, according to published reports and the Mennonite Central Committee, one of the nonprofit organizations for which Lapp worked.

“It’s devastating,” said Schirch, an EMU professor who teaches peacebuilding in the Valley and in Afghanistan. “He knew he was taking a risk and he was very willing to do that. I think he died doing what he believed in and he was willing to take that risk. He was helping a lot of people.”

Attack from Taliban?

Lapp, 40, of Lancaster, Penn., along with five other Americans, a German, a Briton and four Afghans, were found shot in Badakhshan province, known as a relatively peaceful area of Afghanistan.

Although the Taliban claimed responsibility, police say they are also looking into robbery as a possible motive. Schirch and others with MCC cast doubt as to whether the Taliban actually carried out the attack, one of the deadliest on civilian aid workers since the war began in 2001.

Lapp and his team were returning to Kabul from a trip to northern Afghanistan with International Assistance Mission, an MCC partner agency that provides eye care and other medical assistance. Lapp was an executive assistant with IAM and manager of its provincial ophthalmic program, according to a statement from MCC.

Luke Schrock-Hurst, a staff member at the committee’s Harrisonburg office, said Lapp had been in Afghanistan for nearly two years and was set to return to the U.S. in October. Lapp, whose family is from Lancaster, Penn., was not married and had no children, Schrock-Hurst said.

Attacks on aid workers in Afghanistan and other war zones are relatively rare. Lapp is just the third MCC worker to die due to hostile action in the organization’s 90-year history.

“There’s been thousands of us in war zones,” Schrock-Hurst said. “I’ve been [in such zones] myself.”

Being ‘A Presence’

Loren Swartzendruber, EMU president, said the university is grieving over Lapp’s death, along with his family and MCC.

Watch video: EMU responds to the killing of Glen Lapp while offering aid in Afghanistan

“As with many of our alumni around the world, Glen was fulfilling EMU’s mission of serving and leading in a global context, which often involves great personal sacrifice,” Swartzendruber said in a statement.

Schirch, who plans to return to Afghanistan in October, described her friend as compassionate, humble and “devoted to using his life to serve others.”

Lapp’s perspective on his work was recorded in a report he recently filed.

“Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country,” he wrote. “Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.”

As of Sunday evening, information about funeral arrangements or local memorials was not available.