More reports of Christians proselytizing to tsunami victims.

The New York Times (free registration required) has an article up detailing more reports of Christian aid groups being accused of trying to convert victims of the December tsunami during their relief efforts. In particular the Texas based Antioch Community Church is going as far as trying to heal some folks by laying on hands, so far to no avail. Local Christians, who tend to be of a minority status in those countries, are getting pretty pissed off about these reports as they fear it’ll generate a backlash against them once the missionaries… er… aid groups go home.

Most American groups, including those affiliated with religious organizations, strictly avoid mixing aid and missionary work. But scattered reports of proselytizing in Sri Lanka; Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim; and India, with large Hindu and Muslim populations, are arousing concerns that the good will spread by the American relief efforts may be undermined by resentment.

The Rev. Sarangika Fernando, a local Methodist minister, witnessed one of the prayer sessions in Sri Lanka and accused the Americans of acting unethically with traumatized people. “They said, ‘In the name of Jesus, she must be cured!’ ” he said. “As a priest, I was really upset.”

In Sri Lanka, alarmed local Christian leaders say proselytizing at such a sensitive time could reverse the grass-roots interfaith cooperation that has emerged since the tsunami and endanger Christians, who make up 7 percent of the population. The country also has sizable Hindu and Muslim minorities.

The Rev. Duleep Fernando, a Methodist minister based in Colombo, the capital, brought the Americans to the camp here. Mr. Fernando said they had described themselves as humanitarian aid workers. He and other Sri Lankan Christian leaders say raising religion with traumatized refugees is unethical.

“We have told them this is not right, but now we don’t have any control over them,” said Mr. Fernando, who called the group’s Web site postings “unnecessarily explosive.”

“This is a dangerous situation,” he said.

When confronted by reporters on their attempts at conversion the leader one of of the groups tried to claim that there was nothing religious about his group or its goals:

Sri Lankan refugees, camp administrators and church officials said the Americans here had identified themselves only as a humanitarian aid group. In an interview here on Wednesday, Pat Murphy, 49, a leader of the team, said the group was a nongovernmental organization, and not a church group. “It’s an NGO,” Mr. Murphy said. “Just your plain vanilla NGO that does aid work.”

But the church’s Web site says the Americans are one of four teams – for a total of 75 people – dispatched to Sri Lanka and Indonesia who have persuaded dozens of people to “come to Christ.”

When the group’s postings were read to Mr. Murphy, he confirmed that the Americans were from the Antioch Community Church, but said the group would never use relief goods and gifts to entice or pressure people into becoming Christians. He denied that the team, which sent about half its 24 members to work in the eastern town of Kalmunai, was trying to convert people. The church has 2,000 members.

“We simply provide people with information,” he said, “and they do with that what they like.”

Another fine example of commitment to honesty that so many Christians claim to honor. Meanwhile the group’s website makes their intentions quite clear:

A Jan. 18 posting from the team in Indonesia says the country’s devastated Aceh Province is “ripe for Jesus!!”

“What an opportunity,” it adds. “It has been closed for five years, and the missionaries in Indonesia consider it the most militant and difficult place for ministry. The door is wide open and the people are hungry.”

The Rev. Jimmy Seibert, the senior pastor of the Waco church, said in a telephone interview that the church would evaluate whether the group’s members should identify themselves as aid workers. But he said the church believes missionary work and aid work “is one thing, not two separate things.”

“My hope is that as a follower of Jesus they would bring who they are into the workplace,” he said, “whether they are in a workplace in America or a workplace in Sri Lanka.”

At least these folks aren’t packing up their relief supplies and heading out of town when the locals refuse to convert. Many of the locals feel they have little choice, but put up with the conversion attempts due to their desperate situation.

W. L. P. Wilson, 38, a disabled fisherman with a sixth-grade education, said he allowed the Americans to pray three times for the healing of his paralyzed lower leg because he was desperate to provide for his wife and three children again. Mr. Wilson, a Buddhist, said that he believed that the Americans were trying to convert him to Christianity but that he was in “a helpless situation now” and needed aid.

“They told me to always think about God and about Jesus and you will be healed,” he said. “Whenever I ask for help they always mention God, but they do not give any money for treatment.”

Well of course not. You don’t need money for treatment. All you need is to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and he will heal you for free! Says so right here in this handy Bible we brought for you. You can keep it. We’ve got 40,000 more in these other crates we brought. Have a wonderful day in Jesus!

20 thoughts on “More reports of Christians proselytizing to tsunami victims.

  1. Texas isn’t the only place these people are coming from.  Just days after the tsunami, I was watching the local news in Colorado Springs.  They had one of these missionary aid groups spokesperson on to talk about their efforts/plans.  The man said that they were lucky that some of the worst hit places were muslim because that gave them the opportunity to show the people “another way.”
    I was so sickened I had to turn off the news.
    I didn’t know about the christian movement in the Springs until I arrived here in September, then I saw the Focus on the Family headquarters… I’m glad I’m not living here permanently.

  2. Anything that distracts from providing the necessary aid to these people is wrong.  Being gleeful about the areas that were devastated because of the conversion prospects is very wrong.  Lying about one’s plans and motivations is bearing false witness.  And making any aid contingent on conversion is, to my mind, evil.

    So long as that’s covered, I have a lot less objection to folks proselytizing as part of their giving aid.  It’s not something *I* would ever dream of doing (and I’d think, from a practical aspect, that they’d be better off simply being visible Christians on the ground giving aid, not being pushy proselytizers). 

    At best, though, it’s rude, and at worst it’s going to be giving the impression (false, one would hope) that aid is being given only contingent on conversion. Which, as I said, would be evil.

    Indeed, that’s such a slippery slope, I’d suggest these groups not let themselves be “led into temptation” at the prospect.

  3. Leave it to fundamentalists to poison the well.  Quite apart from the foremost, humantarian concerns, this is an opportunity for the US to get some welcome good press among the Muslims, and really take some wind out of the sails of Al Qaeda and its ilk, in a way that Bush’s macho posturing does not.

    Let’s hope that the Christians who merely wish to help (and I’m sure they are in the majority) prevail upon their twisted brethren, and convince them, as Dave suggests, that they will do better by simply giving aid where it’s needed, without strings attached.

  4. This is a list of the worst ‘Jesus’ movies ever made. Which is about every ‘Jesus’ movie ever made. If you can name one ‘Jesus’ movie that was actually good, let me know….marcythewhore

    Jesus Filmography
    This is a chronological listing of our initial filmography of Jesus. Use the Jesus Filmography Name Index for alphabetical searches. Ultimately we’ll be converting this to an online database with expanded credits such as alternative titles, writers, and short critical summaries. Much of our material has been based on the pioneer work of Roy Kinnard and Tim Daly’s Divine Images: A History of Jesus on the Screen [1992, Citadel Press] as well as W. Barnes Tatum’s recent Jesus at the Movies: A Guide to the First Hundred Years, [1998, Polebridge Press].

    These books and related works are available for online ordering from Illiteralist Books. We also invite you to submit information on other Jesus films, whether they’re of a historical or allegorical type.

    [big long list deleted]

  5. This is a list of the worst ‘Jesus’ movies ever made. Which is about every ‘Jesus’ movie ever made. If you can name one ‘Jesus’ movie that was actually good, let me know

    Actually, Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ was a brilliant fil, well acted, well directed and not overly preachy. As an atheist, I thought it was a very well balanced view of Jesus The Man as he may have been, if he existed at all…..

  6. I agree with zilch on this one.  Never thought I’d say that did you? wink Those kinds of stories are really lame.

  7. Hey, theo, that’s twice we’ve agreed recently.  Is this a fluke or the start of a trend?

  8. Jesus had a cameo in ‘Monty Pythons Life Of Brian’ and that is one of the best films ever, even though he did nothing but ramble on about the cheesemakers.

  9. I don’t have any good Jesus films, but there’s always this gem from Combustible Orange:

    Super Demolition Christ

    And I’ve always been partial to this appearance of God in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail:

    GOD: Arthur! Arthur, King of the Britons! Oh, don’t grovel! If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people groveling.

    ARTHUR: Sorry—

    GOD: And don’t apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone it’s “sorry this” and “forgive me that” and “I’m not worthy”. What are you doing now!?

    ARTHUR: I’m averting my eyes, oh Lord.

    GOD: Well, don’t. It’s like those miserable Psalms—they’re so depressing. Now knock it off!

    ARTHUR: Yes, Lord.

    GOD: Right! Arthur, King of the Britons—you’re Knights of the Round Table shall have a task to make them an example in these dark times.

    ARTHUR: Good idea, oh Lord!

    GOD: ‘Course it’s a good idea! Behold! Arthur, this is the Holy Grail. Look well, Arthur, for it is your sacred task to seek this Grail. That is your purpose, Arthur—the Quest for the Holy Grail.

    ARTHUR: A blessing!

    LAUNCELOT: A blessing from the Lord!

    GALAHAD: God be praised!

    (commence ass trumpets)

  10. Maybe some random beheadings from the ‘grateful’ heathens would convince these redneck morons that their preaching was not welcome.  On the other hand it might inspire them to dig in thier heels and keep trying. Either way it would mean fewer of them—a perfect win-win situation.

  11. Someone told me that there is a movie called ‘Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.’ Is this a porno flick or a snuff film or something?…marcythewhore

  12. Okay, I’m Christian and I expect to be criticized but I’ll say this anyway because I really care that people hear this. I think it’s great that people go and help those in disaster and share Jesus. I think that’s better than not doing a thing and just saying “I’ll pray for you”. That is NOT what Jesus teaches. I might as well be an entertainer in a disaster aid, yah… real nice.

    Actions come with witnessing to people. I think if Christians want to give service (vs being lazy) and they go into the field, they aren’t welcome because they’re sharing the Word of God. Those who are comfortable with living in sin do not want to be confronted because they are comfortable with things that lead to self-destruction (and that’s just fine by them), they don’t believe there is actually someone who died for their sins because living in sin is easier than taking the time to know and trust Jesus. That’s the challenge of living like a Christian and those who risk it really do know Jesus. Thank you for reading this if you did and I hope the best for everyone here.

  13. I don’t have a problem with Christians, or any other group, going to help disaster victims, but I think it’s at the very least tacky, if not outright offensive, to try and convert people who are in the middle of dealing with a major life crisis. A lot of people aren’t going to be in anything close to a rational state of mind during an event like this and that makes proselytizing to them a predatory act.

    Those who are comfortable with living in sin do not want to be confronted because they are comfortable with things that lead to self-destruction (and that’s just fine by them), they don’t believe there is actually someone who died for their sins because living in sin is easier than taking the time to know and trust Jesus.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just a load of shit. It’s incredibly arrogant of you to presume to know why someone who’s been traumatized may not want to be preached to by someone who has supposedly shown up to offer help. If you want to lend a hand then shut the hell up and do so. Save the philosophical discussions for after the crisis.

    But then I’m speaking to a group that makes it a regular habit of proselytizing during funerals so it’s probably asking a bit much that you stop trying to take advantage of vulnerable people.

  14. What would you think of atheists who chose to hang out around Christians who had suffered a life-threatening crisis and proselytized them to turn away from their faith.

    “Gosh. That’s too bad about your wife and kids…”

    “Where’s your god now?”

    You wouldn’t find that the least bit tacky and inappropriate? Even if the atheist brought a green bean casserole?

  15. “Gosh. That’s too bad about your wife and kids…”

    “Where’s your god now?”

    Mwaha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa hah ha ha.

    Sorry.  I nearly shit myself laughing when I saw that. 

    I mean, don’t you think that’s -already- what a lot of people think atheists are doing? 

    After all, you can’t spend all your time shooting puppies and eating Christian babies, so messing with people who are trying to cope with tragedy is an excellent way to round out a productive atheist day.

    I love that MrM.  very cool.  green bean casserole and all.

  16. I’m not a big fan of green bean casserole myself.  Does that mean I’m not a real atheist?

  17. It’s pretty funny after I wrote that, I’ve actually left that church recently and not looking back. Sorry for any arrogance if that was the case, I’m still Christian but have to agree with your comments concerning prosyletizing during truama, I love greenbean casserole though. I left Antioch for several reasons but you know the Boston Movement. Again, sorry.

  18. zilch; you don’t have to like or even eat green bean casserole.  You just have to know how to make it or know where to buy it.  You could also substitute other casseroles for the green bean casserole; tuna fish and noodle casserole is fine or even scalloped potatoes would be fine.  If they are Jewish, I would bring a nice fruit basket instead of a casserole.

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