WASHINGTON — President Bush celebrated Monday the return to the United States of two women who were imprisoned in Afghanistan, meeting with them at the White House and calling them "courageous souls."
With the pair, Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, at his side and their families behind them, Bush presided over a Rose Garden ceremony marked throughout by references to religious beliefs.
The two religious aid workers spent more than 100 days in captivity following their arrest in early August after they allegedly went to an Afghan home to show a CD-ROM depicting the life of Jesus.
Their faith led them to Afghanistan, Bush said, "and Heather and Dayna's faith in God sustained them throughout their ordeal. It's a wonderful story about prayer, about a faith that can sustain people in good times and in bad times."
Mercer, 24, and Curry, 30, are affiliated with a church in Waco, Texas, the largest city close to the president's ranch.
Recalling their captivity, Mercer said: "During our time in prison, we prayed almost daily for our nation's government and for the president. We were so honored to be a part of a country that has such a man of God and such a wonderful leader serving our nation.
"Today is a day of great rejoicing for both of us, to be back on our homeland and to celebrate with our nation a story of victory," she said.
The two were yanked from prison in the Afghan capital, Kabul, by their Taliban captors as forces of the regime that had ruled Afghanistan since 1996 fled the city two weeks ago. They eventually were rescued and flown to Pakistan by U.S. military helicopters. They returned to the U.S. on Sunday.
Said Curry: "It truly was a miracle, and I just thank the Lord Jesus Christ for getting us out and answering all those prayers and taking such wonderful care of us while we were there."