The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Evangelist's tsunami efforts stir US Muslim group

Reuters, Posted online: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 1039 hours IST

New York, January 22: A US Muslim group accused evangelist Jerry Falwell of using money donated for tsunami relief to convert people in South Asia to Christianity and called on the Bush administration to denounce his actions.

In an e-mailed weekly newsletter called "Falwell Confidential," which was obtained by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the evangelist said: "Hundreds of thousands are in dire need of medical attention and personal counselling. And in this heavily Muslim part of the world, millions have never even heard of Jesus Christ."

The newsletter, which is distributed by Jerry Falwell Ministries, said donations would be used to distribute food and Gospel tracts in the region.

A Muslim who received the e-mail passed it on to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said.

According to a statement on www.falwell.com and Liberty University's Web site, the school is preparing a team to travel to India, Sri Lanka and other countries in South Asia. Falwell founded Liberty University.

"Distribution of food and medical supplies, along with the dissemination of thousands of Gospel tracts in the language of the people will be the primary tasks of the team," the Web sites said. "Mission trips to the Asian region by many (Liberty University) students will follow in the months, and perhaps years, to come."

But Dr. Eddie Pate, professor and leader of Liberty's tsunami aid effort, said he did not plan to take "any materials or pass anything out." He said the team is going to South Asia to work with local Christian groups that are distributing food and medicine, and helping small businesses restart.

Falwell's office declined comment. The evangelist sparked controversy in 2002 when he called Muslims' prophet Muhammad a "terrorist" during a television interview.
"This is not the first time we hear about this kind of proselytism," Hooper said. "This has a negative impact, first, on interfaith relations, and second, on the trust and work of legitimate institutions working there."
Hooper said missionaries acting as relief groups could hurt rather than help these vulnerable societies.
"It would make work for legitimate institutions more difficult. It also harms America's image, which is already pretty tarnished in the rest of the world."
The White House had no immediate comment.

Earlier this week, reports that the missionary group WorldHelp planned to airlift 300 tsunami orphans from the Muslim province of Banda Aceh to Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, to raise them in a Christian children's home, caused a stir among Muslims. The group has dropped its plans, according to media reports.

WorldHelp officials were not immediately available for comment.

The tsunami has killed about 226,000 across Asia.

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