Muslims by the hundreds turned out to demonstrate against the killing of Joel Shrum, an American teacher in Yemen gunned down on March 18 while driving in Taiz, a city 170 miles southwest of Sanaa, the capital. Crowds filled Taiz streets on March 20 bearing placards with photographs of the 29-year-old Shrum, the phrase "...Why?" printed in Arabic and English across the bottom.
Two gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead the Pennsylvania native, and shortly after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror network's affiliate in Yemen, claimed responsibility for the killing. A text message circulated by cell phone said that "holy warriors" had killed "a senior missionary." But locals said Shrum did not proselytize, and the school where he taught English, the Swedish-run International Training and Development Center, identified him as a "development worker."
His sister, Pennsylvania resident Jessica Lloyd, told me: "Joel was a Christian. And it's not against the law to be a Christian in Yemen." She said he was "motivated by the love of God and God's heart for people" to work among Arab people and help Americans understand "they are not the killers we see on the news." Shrum had lived in the strife-torn country at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula since 2008 and is survived by his wife and two sons, ages 4 and 1.
"Mr. Joel came all the way from the United States of America for nothing but good intentions," said a student who joined the protesters in Taiz. The crowd, which included men, women in full-length black chadors, and children, gathered outside government offices chanting "Stop terrorism" and "We love Joel Shrum." One woman read from petitions stating, "We condemn the awful crime of murdering the American teacher Joel Shrum," and "we demand authorities to seriously search for the murderers and bring them to justice."