EMU Grieves Graduate Killed While Working in Afghanistan (Updated 8/12/10)

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

Updated August 12, 2010

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An EMU graduate working for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Afghanistan, Glen D. Lapp of Lancaster, Pa., was murdered during a shooting incident in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province.

According to an MCC release, Lapp, 40, was traveling with a medical team of four Afghans, six Americans, one Briton and one German. All, including Lapp, worked with MCC partner organization International Assistance Mission, a charity providing eye care and medical help in Afghanistan.

Local police found 10 bodies on Friday next to abandoned vehicles and said robbery might have been the motive. The Taliban has said it is behind the attack, according to the MCC release.

Lapp a 1991 EMU graduate

IAM, which has worked in the country since 1966, regularly dispatched “eye camp” medical teams in Afghanistan. Lapp, a 1991 mathematics graduate from EMU who went on to study nursing at Johns Hopkins, had been working as executive assistant at IAM and manager of IAM’s provincial ophthalmic care program.

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

“The EMU community joins the Lapp family and Mennonite Central Committee in grieving the deaths of Glen Lapp and his colleagues while serving the people of Afghanistan,” said Loren Swartzendruber, EMU president. “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.”

‘A little bit of Christ in this part of the world’

According to MCC, Lapp was to complete his term in October, and recently wrote about it in a report, “Where I was [Afghanistan], the main thing that expats can do is to be a presence in the country. Treating people with respect and with love and trying to be a little bit of Christ in this part of the world.”

Professor Lisa Schirch traveled with Lapp

Dr. Lisa Schirch, professor of peacebuilding at EMU’s graduate Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, worked and traveled with Lapp in Kabul. In an interview August 8, Schirch told hburgnews.com that she and Lapp had many conversations about the risks involved with humanitarian work in Afghanistan, but he believed the needs of the people there outweighed personal risks. “There’s not a lot of medical assistance available to people in those remote areas [where Lapp was killed].”

Schirch said the killing of IAM workers in Afghanistan is not common.

“The Taliban is a very diverse group,” Schirch said Sunday. “[These killings] are not necessarily the official Taliban line. Normally they leave medical missions alone . . . IAM operated under Taliban rule in the 1990s. It’s unusual that he died in this way,” she said, suggesting that the killings may have been motivated by robbery, as opposed to strategic insurgent military operations.

Schirch hopes that Americans realize the scope of humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan, and the ongoing needs of the Afghan people, many of whom put themselves at risk alongside Americans like Lapp.

“Glen found the work that he did to be very meaningful. I hope that his life is an inspiration to people to continue the work that he was doing there.”

Lapp was the son of Marvin and Mary Lapp, and a member of Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, Pa., a Mennonite Church USA congregation.

Memorial service

The memorial service for Glen will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 15 at Bright Side Baptist Church (515 Hershey Avenue, Lancaster).

A visitation time with the Lapp family will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14 at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (328 W. Orange St, Lancaster). People are encouraged to ride bikes to any of these services, and wear shorts in honor of Glen.

In the Sunday service where members became aware of Glen’s death, the hymn O Healing River was sung in his memory.

Read more of the Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster (CMCL) response to Glen’s death.

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