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.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Christian groups 'proselytising': Muslims

Sian Powell, Banda Aceh
December 24, 2005
The Australian

Tensions between fundamentalist Muslims and Western aid workers have begun to erupt in Aceh as the tsunami-devastated Indonesian province slowly recovers.

Islamic activists have claimed that aid workers are secretly attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity, pointing particularly to World Vision, Aceh Relief, the International Catholic Mission and Church World Service.

And Western women have been sent threatening text messages, warning them not to be seen on the beach in swimming costumes, "or else".

Rumours swirl in Aceh of conversions from Islam to Christianity, of plans to undermine Islam with largesse from Christian charities and of a secret Christian agenda of seemingly innocuous aid organisations.

Aceh was traumatised by the Boxing Day tsunami, which left 170,000 dead and missing, but however needed the Western aid organisations have been, they have always been watched with wary eyes.

An elder of the al-Hassanah mosque in Banda Aceh's Geuceu district said a gift of Christian money could not be used for a new roof for the mosque. Instead, the money was borrowed from elsewhere, and the donated funds from the broad-minded US-based Catholic Relief Service were used to repay the loan -- preventing the Christian cash having any direct contact with the mosque.

Long known as Indonesia's most conservatively devout province, Aceh introduced strict Islamic sharia law in 1999. Gamblers have been publicly caned and religious police have detained bare-headed Muslim women or couples seen canoodling.

Christian organisations flatly deny they are trying to bring the Christian faith to Aceh.

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said his organisation had a strict policy forbidding proselytisation.

Aceh's Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency will begin investigating the allegations next month and, more importantly, probe why the Acehnese are feeling so insecure about Christians in the province.

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