Carrying a religious mission to Muslim countries - Corpus Christi Caller Times, USA
- Carrying a religious mission to Muslim countries
By JAMES W. BROSNAN
December 30, 2002
American missionaries routinely defy travel warnings
by the U.S. government and hostility and repression by
some other governments to work in Muslim-dominated
"Evil cannot deter the message of the gospel," said
Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham,
even though "it is becoming increasingly dangerous to
take the message of Jesus to certain places in the
On Monday, a gunman killed the administrator, a doctor
and a supply manager at a Baptist-run hospital in
Jibla, Yemen. A pharmacist was also injured.
There have been other such incidents recently.
On Nov. 21, American nurse Bonnie Penner, 31, was shot
and killed at an evangelical center in the Lebanese
port city of Sidon.
Last year, American missionaries Dayna Curry and
Heather Mercer were imprisoned by the Taliban for
preaching Christianity in Afghanistan. After three
months in captivity, they were freed by the Northern
Also in 2001, three American missionaries were
arrested in the United Arab Emirates for distributing
Christian literature on a street corner.
Most Muslim-dominated countries prohibit efforts to
convert Muslims to other faiths and many religions
don't even try. The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, for example, has no missionaries in
Muslim countries because Mormons go only to countries
whose governments invite them, said church spokesman
Some evangelical organizations have sprung up to
target Muslims for conversions, but other churches
concentrate on providing social and health services.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association provides
aid through the Pontifical Mission to the needy in
Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and
Palestinian-controlled areas of Israel, primarily
using local employees, said association spokesman
Working with Muslims has never been a problem, he
said. The group's secretary general, Monsignor Robert
Stern of New York City, has even been invited several
times to speak at Sunni Muslim mosques in Syria.
The Southern Baptist Convention's International
Mission Board has operated the 80-bed hospital in
Jibla for 35 years, serving up to 200 people a day.
"Our personnel, as Americans and Christians, are well
aware of the risk of living and serving in a place
like Yemen," said Board President Jerry Rankin. "Yet
their love for the Yemeni people and obedience to the
conviction of God's leadership has been expressed in a
willingness to take that risk and give of their
Rankin said Southern Baptists would continue to
operate at the hospital although the board already had
been negotiating to transfer the administration to
Minne Garrett, of Byhalia, Miss., volunteered with her
husband, Dr. Richard Garrett, a gynecologist, at the
Jibla hospital in September and October of this year.
She said that one of those killed Monday, Dr. Martha
Myers, had once been kidnapped by a rebel group but
"She loved these people," she said.
The slain hospital administrator, Bill Koehn, was due
to retire and come home next year, she said.
Yemen's army guarded the hospital and would provide
armed escorts for travel, she said.
Richard Garrett said he was surprised the assailant
was captured but not shot.
When he heard about the deaths he called the Mission
Board and volunteered to return to Yemen.
"Christians have always been exposed to danger," said
Richard Garrett. "This is just part of the work."
(Email James W. Brosnan at BrosnanJ(at)shns.com.)
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