Thursday, 12 August 2010

Karen Woo: Humanist martyr

Humanist aren't really keen on martyrdom. We prefer survival. Most of us would probably compromise our principles to stay alive. After all, it's the only life we get.

But sometimes, rarely, we need to face danger in order to help someone. Perhaps we see someone fall into a canal or attacked by a mugger. I hope we'd all take some risks to help a person in danger.

It's another thing to deliberately take a path into danger. To have a choice, yet to choose the path that puts you at personal risk for the sake of others. That's altruism of a high order.

Such a person was Dr Karen Woo, who was murdered last week in Afghanistan. An experienced doctor, she gave up her job with BUPA to take medical aid to the people of Afghanistan. Whether Dr Woo was murdered by bandits or religious fanatics will hardly matter to her friends and family. We can, however, feel only contempt for the Taliban spokesman who defend her murder on the grounds that she was 'spying and preaching Christianity'.

Dr Woo was a humanitarian and a humanist martyr. The world is the worse for her death.