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Plans Under Way for Christianizing the Enemy - New House, USA

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  • Zafar Khan
    Plans Under Way for Christianizing the Enemy BY MARK O KEEFE c.2003 Newhouse News Service http://www.newhouse.com/archive/okeefe032603.html Two leading
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2003
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      Plans Under Way for Christianizing the Enemy
      BY MARK O'KEEFE
      c.2003 Newhouse News Service

      http://www.newhouse.com/archive/okeefe032603.html

      Two leading evangelical Christian missionary
      organizations said Tuesday that they have teams of
      workers poised to enter Iraq to address the physical
      and spiritual needs of a large Muslim population.

      The Southern Baptist Convention, the country's largest
      Protestant denomination, and the Rev. Franklin
      Graham's Samaritan's Purse said workers are near the
      Iraq border in Jordan and are ready to go in as soon
      as it is safe. The relief and missionary work is
      certain to be closely watched because both Graham and
      the Southern Baptist Convention have been at the heart
      of controversial evangelical denunciations of Islam,
      the world's second largest religion.

      Both organizations said their priority will be to
      provide food, shelter and other needs to Iraqis
      ravaged by recent war and years of neglect. But if the
      situation presents itself, they will also share their
      Christian faith in a country that's estimated to be 98
      percent Muslim and about 1 percent Christian.

      "We go where we have the opportunity to meet needs,"
      said Ken Isaacs,international director of projects for
      Samaritan's Purse, located in Boone, N.C. "We do not
      deny the name of Christ. We believe in sharing him in
      deed and in word. We'll be who we are."

      Mark Kelly, a spokesman for the Southern Baptists'
      International Mission Board, said $250,000 has already
      been spent to provide immediate needs, such as
      blankets and baby formula. Much more will follow,
      along with a more overt spiritual emphasis.

      "Conversations about spiritual things will come about
      as people ask about our faith," said Kelly, based in
      Richmond, Va. "It's not going to be like what you
      might see in other countries where there's a preaching
      service held outside clinics and things like that."

      Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs
      of the National Association of Evangelicals, is urging
      caution for the two groups, as well as other
      evangelical organizations planning to go into Iraq.

      "Evangelicals need to be sensitive to the
      circumstances of this country and its people," said
      Cizik, based in Washington, D.C. "If we are perceived
      as opportunists we only hurt our cause. If this is
      seen as religious freedom for Iraq by way of gunboat
      diplomacy, is that helpful? I don't think so. If
      that's the perception, we lose."

      Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham,
      has been less diplomatic about Islam than his father
      has been. Two months after the Sept. 11 attacks,
      Franklin Graham called Islam "a very evil and wicked
      religion" during an interview on NBC, the television
      network. In his book published last year, "The Name,"
      Graham wrote that "The God of Islam is not the God of
      the Christian faith." He went on to say that "the two
      are different as lightness and darkness."

      On the eve of the Southern Baptist Convention in St.
      Louis last year, the Rev. Jerry Vines, a former
      denomination president, told several thousand
      delegates that Islam's Allah is not the same as the
      God worshipped by Christians. "And I will tell you
      Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah's not going to
      turn you into a terrorist," Vines said.

      Widespread condemnation of those comments followed
      from other Protestant leaders as well as from Catholic
      and Jewish groups. The Graham and Vines statements
      even created a problem for President Bush, who has
      called Islam a "religion of peace."

      Bush, an evangelical Christian himself, has close ties
      to both Franklin Graham, who gave a prayer at his
      inauguration, and Southern Baptists, who are among his
      most loyal political supporters.

      Isaacs, who works for Franklin Graham, refused to
      comment about his boss' views of Islam, except to say,
      "most of Franklin's work is to the Muslim world and
      those are sincere acts of love, concern and
      compassion."

      In a written statement, Graham said: "As Christians,
      we love the Iraqi people, and we are poised and ready
      to help meet their needs. Our prayers are with the
      innocent families of Iraq, just as they are with our
      brave soldiers and leaders."

      Isaacs said Samaritan's Purse has assembled a team of
      nine Americans and Canadians that includes veterans of
      war-relief projects in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Rwanda and
      Somalia. The teams include a doctor, an engineer and a
      water specialist.

      They will bring resources that include a system that
      can provide drinking water for up to 20,000 people,
      material to build temporary shelters for more than
      4,000 families, packages of household items for 5,000
      families, and kits designed to meet the general
      medical needs of 100,000 people for three months.

      So far, there's no budget for the effort because it's
      so fluid, said Jeremy Blume, a Samaritan's Purse
      spokesman, but donors are being asked to help. A
      Southern Baptist fund-raising drive is under way to
      help underwrite the cost, Kelly said. Both groups said
      only private donations have funded their plans thus
      far, with no government assistance in the works.

      Southern Baptists, representing a denomination of 16
      million members, have workers in Jordan waiting to
      help refugees. But so far, few refugees have arrived,
      perhaps because it's still too difficult for much of
      the population to maneuver between warring militaries
      on their way to the border, Kelly said.

      Baptist Men, a national organization devoted to
      providing disaster relief work, has promised to send
      volunteers from the United States "on a moment's
      notice," Kelly said.

      As soon as they gain access to northern Iraq, teams
      will go, Kelly said, with plans of feeding up to
      10,000 or more people a day.

      "The hope is that as the war front moves and the
      situation in the outlying areas improves, we'll be
      able to send mobile teams in.

      "Our understanding of relief ministries is that
      anytime you give a cup of cold water in the name of
      Jesus you've shared God's love in a real physical way.
      That also raises the question as to why you did that.
      When people ask you, you explain that it's because of
      the love of God that has been poured out into my life
      and I have a deep desire that you know that same love
      as well."


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