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2003-04-18

A Debate Between the Southern Baptist Convention, the Council On American-Islamic Relations and a Professor of Religious Studies On Christian Missionary Groups Heading to Iraq

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Christian relief agencies are hot on the heels of the invading US army to enter Iraq and provide humanitarian aid–as well as a touch of the gospel.

Some of the agencies planning campaigns in the newly-occupied country want to do more than just save lives–they also want to "save souls" by making religious converts among a population that is 98 percent Muslim.

The prospect has alarmed Muslim organizations who see it as exploitive and politically inflammatory.

Iraq is expected to face a massive humanitarian crisis, with hunger, homelessness and disease threatening the nation’s 24 million people.

Several groups are already in the area setting up aid operations in Kuwait, Jordan and the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq.

Agencies who have announced their intent to combine aid with evangelization include some whose leaders have proclaimed harshly negative views of Islam.

Critics say that if groups go into Iraq to seek converts under the guise of providing aid, they could do enormous political damage by re-enforcing the view that the invasion has political and religious roots.

  • Mark Kelly, Spokesman for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Abdulaziz Sachedina, Professor of Religious Studies at University of Virginia and author of 'The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism.'
  • Ibrahim Hooper, Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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