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Carrying a religious mission to Muslim countries - Corpus Christi Caller Times, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    Carrying a religious mission to Muslim countries By JAMES W. BROSNAN December 30, 2002
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2003
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      Carrying a religious mission to Muslim countries
      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
      Coke Newell.

      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
      Michael LaCavita.

      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
      was released.

      "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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