Pakistan: ICRC remembers Khalil Dale

10-05-2012 Feature

ICRC health worker Khalil Dale was murdered in Quetta, Pakistan, four months after his abduction. Messages of condolence have poured in, offering not only sympathy but also an insight into the gentle, loving and caring person he was.

Described as brave, tireless, inspiring, and compassionate and as someone who brought hope to many, Khalil was a remarkable man. The kind of humanitarian who left the world a better place and whose passing has touched all of us, whether we knew him personally or not.

His life was one of love, not hatred

"Khalil would have dismissed such a comment with a humble smile and changed the subject immediately, but he was a true humanitarian worker, a real world-citizen and one of the most generous people I ever met," wrote a friend and former colleague.

"Khalil joined the team in Quetta with a great deal of excitement, motivation and happiness… It's important to know that we desperately needed him and that his presence made a real difference. I will keep Khalil in my heart forever and his memory will give me the strength to keep going," the letter concluded.

Other messages from co-workers echoed the desire to honour Khalil's legacy.

"This is such a tragedy… we will keep his spirit alive by continuing to help others," reads one message from an ICRC colleague.

"As a British Red Cross volunteer, I share your condemnation of this utterly unacceptable act of violence. I offer my deepest condolences to all. Our resolve to help the most vulnerable will not waver," reads another.

UN agencies, NGOs, governments and individuals have all expressed shock and sadness.

A time of mourning

Following a memorial service in Islamabad, three of Khalil's colleagues from Pakistan travelled with his body to the United Kingdom, where he will be laid to rest in conformity with the wishes of his family.

Khalil's family and friends spoke of their "hurt, grief, confusion and anger" over the murder, and gratitude for the "overwhelming flood of support, kindness and love" they had received from all corners of the globe.

Searching for answers

ICRC staff throughout Pakistan observed a week of mourning following Khalil’s death. "There are no words to convey the sorrow shared by so many around the world," said ICRC South Asia chief Jacques de Maio from Islamabad. "Currently, the ICRC has frozen its operations in Pakistan and we are reviewing all our activities and set-up in the country,” he explained. In response to media accounts of Khalil's death, many of which he described as inaccurate and misleading, de Maio insisted: "We want answers. We expect a proper investigation to take place and justice to be served."

A lasting mark

Throughout the crisis and its tragic outcome, ICRC staff at headquarters and around the world expressed solidarity with those who held Khalil dear.

Candles flicker next to Khalil's photo inside the entrance to the main building at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. A book of condolence is open nearby. The ICRC flag on the building flew at half-mast with a black pennant above it for a week following news of Khalil's death. A simple bouquet of white flowers was placed in the small stream that flows through the Garden of Remembrance next to the main building, where ICRC staff remember colleagues who have died in the line of duty.

The weight of the tragedy was etched on the faces of the hundreds of colleagues at ICRC headquarters, as ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger addressed staff: "We come together to share our own grief and that of his loved ones, who showed impressive courage as they learned that he was murdered," said the president. "I feel your profound sadness and you feel mine, along with my indignation towards the perpetrators of such a heinous crime. I want to thank all those at headquarters, in Pakistan and in London for having done everything they could to save Khalil's life.”

The ICRC plans a gathering in Geneva at which current and former ICRC staff can pay tribute to the life and 30 years’ service of this dedicated humanitarian, who changed his name from Ken to Khalil when he converted to Islam.

Love not hatred

The statement by Khalil's family sums up best what many of the condolence messages have conveyed – that we should remember him for who he was, not how he left us.

“We will not let the events of the past week sully Khalil’s memory," the statement said. "He achieved much in this world. His life was one of love, not hatred. His life was one of kindness, not cruelty. We will always remember our Khalil, our Ken, as a man who brought joy to us and countless others."