Analysis: American Missionary Killed in Lebanon

All Things Considered: November 21, 2002

American Missionary Slain in Lebanon

LYNN NEARY, host:

In neighboring Lebanon, an American missionary who worked as a nurse in a health clinic was shot dead today. No one has claimed responsibility for that attack. From Sidon, NPR's Kate Seelye reports.

KATE SEELYE reporting:

According to Lebanese police, 31-year-old Bonnie Penner was shot and killed early this morning as she opened the medical clinic where she worked in this southern port city. Police say she was shot three times in the head at the Unity Center, a charity organization run by the Christian Evangelical Church. Police had no suspects and it was not clear whether the killing was politically motivated. Penner had lived in Lebanon for the past two years with her husband, a British citizen who worked as a doctor at the same clinic.

Neighbors on the quiet street where the Unity Center is located in a three-story villa said they were shocked and saddened by Penner's death. They said the center's work was highly appreciated in the community. It provided free English classes and medical services for many poor Palestinian women from the nearby Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp. Neighbor Wael Musry(ph).

Mr. WAEL MUSRY: There were many pregnant women that were going there. They don't know about the crime. They were very astonished also. They were crying.

SEELYE: But some here were allegedly suspicious of the center's intentions. Muslim clerics in this conservative town reportedly accused the center of trying to proselytize and indoctrinate the city's youth. One aid worker claimed that the Evangelical Church, which ran the clinic, had received demands from radical Muslim groups that it be closed down. Neighbor Halid Bazi(ph) said there were people in Sidon who opposed the missionaries' work.

Mr. HALID BAZI: (Foreign language spoken)

SEELYE: `I saw a flier which said these people were not good people and were against Islam,' said Bazi, `but on the contrary, they were doing good deeds for everyone.'

The US Embassy said today that it was investigating the killing in coordination with Lebanese authorities. It came amid a spate of attacks against Americans and Western interests throughout the region. In Kuwait, two Marines were seriously injured today after being shot at on a highway by a Kuwaiti traffic policeman. Last month in Jordan, a US aid agency official was shot and killed in Amman in an attack that officials believe was politically motivated. Arab analysts say resentment against Americans is growing throughout the region because of US support for Israel and the prospect of an American invasion of Iraq. Kate Seelye, NPR News, Sidon.

Copyright 2002 National Public Radio®. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information, please contact NPR's Permissions Coordinator at (202) 513-2000.

This transcript was created by a contractor for NPR, and NPR has not verified its accuracy. For all NPR programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version.

Copyright 2002 National Public Radio®. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information, please contact NPR's Permissions Coordinator at (202) 513-2000.

This transcript was created by a contractor for NPR, and NPR has not verified its accuracy. For all NPR programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version.