From Al Jazeera, Are Chrsitian evangelists eyeing Iraq? I can only speak about JW but knowing them they don't miss a chance to convert over all those Godless heathens:
|Are Christian evangelists eyeing Iraq?|
In its war against Iraq, the United States-led axis has purportedly been aiming to win over the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.
But some US-based Christian evangelists are readying themselves to take it a step further.
Dedicated workers of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Samaritan’s Purse — two of the biggest evangelical Christian missions in the US — are reportedly waiting on the Jordanian border for the signal to enter the battle-scarred country.
Both organisations insist that their priority will be to provide food, shelter and other needs to the victims of the war. But they don’t deny that if the situation presents itself, they will preach their Christian faith in a country that is predominantly Muslim.
“We do not deny the name of Christ. We believe in sharing him in deed and in word,” said Mark Kelly, a spokesman for the Southern Baptists.
The missionaries say that they plan to address the physical and spiritual needs of the Iraqi population.
But attempts to preach Christianity in Iraq where Muslims constitute 98 per cent of the population has set off alarm bells.
Words of caution have come from none else than Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the US National Association of Evangelicals. “We need to be sensitive to the circumstances of the country and its people. If we are perceived as opportunists we only hurt our cause,” argued Cizik.
Even the Bush Administration is cleverly distancing itself from the missionary plans, lest they make the war against Iraq seem like the crusade against Islam many Muslims already believe it is.
“It is not the White House responsibility to determine which groups provide aid,” explained Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman at a press-briefing on Friday. He also used the opportunity to stress that US President George Bush considered “Islam to be a religion of peace.”
But nothing perhaps will lessen the embarrassment since the two evangelical organisations are known Islam-baiters and they are seeking to canvas their faith in a country that has been ravaged by the US-led war.
Rev.Franklin Graham of the Samaritan’s Purse had particularly courted controversy with his inflammatory remarks against Islam in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
In an interview to an American television channel, Rev.Graham called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.”
Rev Jerry Vines of the Southern Baptist Convention had also been caustic in his remarks against Islam. On the eve of a convention in St.Louis last year, he had gone on to explain to gathered delegates that Islam’s Allah is not the same as the God worshipped by Christians. “I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist,” he had said.
But notwithstanding their strong views against Islam, both the organisations enjoy strong links with the US President.
While the Southern Baptists are among the most loyal of Bush’s political constituents, Rev Graham led a prayer at the President’s inauguration.
Their connections in high places haven’t completely shielded them against Administration displeasure. Accused of holding prayers before teaching victims of an earthquake how to build temporary homes, Samaritan’s Purse was warned by the State Department only recently not to mix relief with religion.
Undaunted, the organisation is going full steam ahead in reaching out to Iraq. It has assembled a team of doctors and engineers and hopes to carry in drinking water for 20,000 people, build temporary shelters for more than 4000 families and provide medical support to 100,000 people.
Southern Baptists has also embarked on a fund-raising drive to finance its relief operations in Iraq. At the physical level, it plans to feed up to 10,000 hungry Iraqis a day . -- Al Jazeera