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Editorial: Carrying on Nakamura's faith in life after his death in Afghanistan

Japanese physician Tetsu Nakamura died after being gunned down by an armed group in Afghanistan. He had spent many years providing humanitarian assistance in the war-torn country with the nongovernmental organization Peshawar-kai, and his death came long before he could fulfill his lifetime ambitions.

Yet his footsteps of dedication have deeply been engraved in the vast land of Afghanistan.

Nakamura was a man of extraordinary conviction and actions.

After helping provide medical assistance for people in Pakistan, he gradually shifted his support activities to neighboring Afghanistan. When the country was hit by severe drought in 2000, locals suffered famine and thirst. Clean water and food were indispensable to save their lives.

Nakamura strived to build water wells and agricultural waterways in Afghanistan, transcending the bounds of medical assistance. Altogether, he dug 1,600 wells, turning a total of 16,500 hectares of land into fertile plains. He learned civil engineering on his own.

As poverty is said to be a factor in young Afghans joining groups of armed insurgents, Nakamura believed that eliminating poverty through restoration of farmland ravaged by drought and wars could contribute to breaking the chain of negativity.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mourned Nakamura's death, stating, "He risked his life to achieve various feats. I'm utterly shocked."

Previously, when Abe referred to expanding the roles of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces for the sake of nongovernmental organizations operating overseas, Nakamura had warned, "It is precisely the Cabinet's responsibility not to make unnecessary enemies." Abe's reference to such expansion had come in connection with the government's move in 2014 to allow for Japan's exercise of collective self-defense in a limited sphere, but the physician had advocated against settling conflict by the use of force.

Deterioration of security in Afghanistan has shown no signs of abating. Since the concerted terrorist attacks in the United States in September 2001, Afghanistan has been mired in battles between U.S. forces and armed insurgencies including the Taliban.

According to the United Nations, 3,804 civilians were killed in those battles in Afghanistan in 2018 alone. Humanitarian aid groups have also been targeted in attacks, with 27 workers in those groups slain between January and August 2019.

The worsening security situation has led to dwindling aid activities in Afghanistan. There are concerns that the deadly shooting of Nakamura may further intimidate aid workers. Japan and Afghanistan are urged to join hands in efforts to get to the bottom of the despicable attack.

The Peshawar-kai is set to continue its activities in Afghanistan. The international community has a responsibility to take over Nakamura's ambitions without abandoning the country.

Voices of sorrow have been reverberating in Afghanistan since the news broke about Nakamura's death. It is proof that he had earned trust from people in the country through his support activities deeply rooted in regional communities while respecting their local cultures and traditions.

Nakamura once said mutual trust between people is more essential than arms. We should take his belief to our hearts once again.

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