Dayna Curry, detained in Afghanistan on charges of promoting Christianity, at one time hoped to be released in time for her 30th birthday on Sunday. That same day, churches around the world will observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

"I hope I'll be home by the 4th, but it's hard to tell when we will be released," the Shelter Now International relief worker wrote to her father, Tilden Curry, in a message he received October 26. "The lawyer meets with the Supreme Court tomorrow to see what their decision is. There is also a rumor that we are hostages now, but it would be so great to be home by the 4th."

Atif Ali Khan, the Pakistani lawyer for Curry and seven other aid workers, returned to Pakistan the week Curry wrote the letter. He was unable to meet with justices, and the trial came to a halt.

Curry said she and five other female prisoners are healthy again after suffering various illnesses since their arrest on August 3.

"We have been treated well, but it has been heartbreaking to see and hear others being severely beaten around us," she wrote. "The female guards that come each day to look after us have not been paid in two months—they are hungry—we give them any food we have extra or leftover to take to their families."

Curry asked for prayer for continued good health for herself and the five women, including 24-year-old American Heather Mercer.

"We meet in the mornings and evenings every day for one or two hours," she wrote. "We sing a lot! Heather and I even wrote a song. Some of the others have written songs too. … Pray that we can grow in our love for one another. Six ladies in a small place 24/7 can be a challenge—so we are learning to be patient and kind to one another. Most of the time things are fine, but when one is down it affects all of us."

When she wrote, Curry was certain enough of her release that her biggest prayer request was for safe exit from the country.

"If we drive out, we could run into people that may be very angry at Western people right now," she wrote. "We have no idea how He is going to get us out of here, but we trust He has a good plan. But mostly tell them [her 14-year-old half-brother Daniel and his 8th-grade classmates] to pray for the Afghan people—that they will have food and be able to stay warm—and that no bombs would hit people's homes. Sometimes we get scared during the loud bombing, but thankfully none have hit too close to us—no windows have broken. They can keep praying too that none come close to us."

Article continues below

She added, "Tell them we can feel their prayers. We feel his peace in our hearts."

Psalms 27 and 91 have encouraged them, she wrote, as well as 2 Cor. 1:8-11. In a previous letter, Curry said the detainees also have taken consolation in Psalm 56, Psalm 118:17, and Psalm 55:18.

The prisoners have enough winter clothing, blankets, and an electric heater to keep warm during cold nights, Curry wrote. They are also adequately fed.

Dayna's father told CT that the Shelter Now workers occasionally heard artillery even before the bombing began. "But she's a person of great maturity and deep faith, and I gather she's been a pillar of strength and is helping others to deal with the strain," Tilden Curry said.

Heather Mercer's mother, Deborah L. Oddy, told CT from Islamabad that the bombing is not necessarily the reason the trial halted.

"My personal feeling is that the court will not proceed with the case because they do not want it to end," she wrote in an e-mail message. "Why give up eight very valuable hostages?"

Mercer's letters indicate she has resigned herself to being imprisoned "for some time," says Oddy.

"She said she and her fellow hostages all agree that the trial is at a dead end. She continues to be concerned by the bombings and expresses great concern for the Afghan people who are suffering," Oddy wrote.

"I am indifferent to the fact that the trial will not be continuing," Oddy added. "Since the bombing began on 7 October, I have not believed that the hostages' best hope was in the trial process."

The United Nations' 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the right of everyone to freedom of religion, including the freedom to "manifest one's religion" to others. If found guilty under Taliban law, however, the Shelter Now workers could face penalties ranging from expulsion to death by hanging. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar reportedly favors an "exemplary punishment."

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church—which now lasts a week, with Christians free to select either November 4 or 11 and all days in between to make concerted petitions—is expected to involve 100,000 churches in the United States and 300,000 worldwide.

Dayna Curry's aunts in Denham Springs, Louisiana, are planning a November 4 charity birthday celebration for their niece. The party is expected to draw as many as 200 town residents.

"We're calling it a 'Birthday Blanket Blast,' in which people can donate money to buy blankets for street children in Afghanistan, which is one of Dayna's big concerns," Jackie Covington, Tilden Curry's sister, told CT. "There'll be a space-walk and cake and ice cream. We were hoping Dayna was going to be home in time for it, but it looks like that's not going to happen."

Article continues below

Jeff M. Sellers is associate editor of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere:

The International Day of Prayer site has articles and prayer requests from around the globe.

Recent media coverage of the Shelter Now trial includes:

Taliban deny access to detained aid workers — Reuters (Nov. 1, 2001)

Don't forget our hostagesThe Washington Times (Nov. 1, 2001)

U.S. raids affect Kabul trial of aid workers — Reuters (Oct. 23, 2001)

Aid worker trial 'bogged down' in Afghanistan — CNN (Oct. 23, 2001)

Lawyer says aid staff to go free in daysThe Guardian, London (Oct. 20, 2001)

For continuing coverage, see Yahoo's full coverage and Christianity Today'sWeblog.

The Web site for the German-run Shelter Now is regularly updated with releases on the prisoners.

Antioch Community Church in Waco, which both Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer attended, also has updates on the prisoners, including e-mail messages from both Americans.

Previous Christianity Today coverage of the Shelter Now workers' imprisonment includes:

Caught in the Crossfire | Family, churches press for release of American missionaries in Kabul. (Oct. 31, 2001)
Aid Workers Held Captive | Taliban alleges housing group's staff engaged in evangelism. (Aug. 30, 2001)
In Perspective: The Friendliest Murderous Militants in the World | The Soviet Union, United States, and others helped create Afghanistan's ruling Taliban. Will the world's most Islamic state backfire? (Aug. 30, 2001)
Diplomats Receive Visas Into Afghanistan, but Will Only Meet with Officials | Over a week after the raid on Shelter Germany, future for workers still unclear. (Aug. 13, 2001)

Jeff M. Sellers writes Christianity Today's "Bearing the Cross" articles on persecution in countries such as Laos, China, Indonesia, Sudan, and North Korea.