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24 January 2005
Innovative Minds (c) 2005

At least 234,000 people have been confirmed killed, thousands missing and millions displaced in several Asian countries in tidal waves triggered by a 9.0 magnitude undersea earthquake - the world’s biggest in 40 years - which struck deep in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra Island on 26th December 2004.

The impact of the Asian tsunami is seen in satellite images of the Indonesian 
village of Gleebruk. The village is seen before the tsunami (left) on April 12,
 2004 and after the tsunami (right) on January 2, 2005.

Aceh province Indonesia - whole coastal villages wiped out - only the Mosques survived
[for more click here]

Tsunami - An Opportunity To Convert

Whilst much of the aid coming from around the world is purely humanitarian and unconditional, many aid workers have been alarmed at how some of the American aid is being channelled through missionary organisations like Southern Baptists' International Mission Board, WorldHelp, Samaritan's Purse, and Gospel for Asia, which see the tsunami as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to-reach areas. InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S. based ngo organizations, reports that of its 55 member agencies providing tsunami aid, 22 are faith-based.

In Krabi, Thailand, a Southern Baptist church had been "praying for a way to make inroads" with a particular ethnic group of fishermen without much success, according to Southern Baptist relief coordinator Pat Julian. Then came the tsunami, "a phenomenal opportunity" to provide ministry and care, Julian told the Baptist Press news service,[9] and added "We need to get past the death toll and get focused on the living -- because that's where our ministry is going to be."[12]

Samaritan's Purse, which is approved by the White House as a humanitarian organization for tsunami relief donations, are working with an American missionary Pastor Dayalan Sanders who has set up base in Sri Lanka, giving him "an opportunity to reach out to his neighbors, mostly Hindus". Head of Samaritan's Purse, Franklin Graham who considers Hindus as being "bound by Satan's power" and Islam as "a very wicked and evil religion" explains “We’ve come to help in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[11]

A 3 year old Sri Lankan tsunami survivor, Salomia, whose parents are not to be found, holds a broken doll sitting atop a broken wall of her destroyed tsunami-house in the town of Kalmunai on Sri Lanka's east coast. Little does she know that she is the prime target of ravaging missionary gangs operating in the area.

One missionary interviewed by the Telegraph newspaper[13], who didn't want his surname revealed, was candid about why he was in Banda Aceh (Indonesia):

"I'm not here to do relief work," said John. His calling was missionary work, he admitted. "They are looking for answers," he said of the disaster victims, whom he described as particularly good candidates for conversion.

"Now we are befriending them, giving them food aid, clothes and stuff. We need to make friends with them first rather than telling them the concept of salvation. Long term that's where we are heading towards, to save their souls."

Sponsor A Missionary

"This (disaster) is one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love with people," said K.P. Yohannan, president of the Texas-based Gospel for Asia.

Their activity in the tsunami hit area of Tamil Nadu (India) have drawn sharp criticism from local officials. In Akkaraipettai, Gospel for Asia and Believers Church have set up an orphanage without the knowledge of the government, said Suriyakala, the district's social welfare officer. 108 children, mainly Hindus have been taken to the orphanage and are told to recite Christian prayers six times a day. "As soon as we get up, we pray," said a 13 year old Hindu child Rajavalli. The church officials claim "We did not take the children", but recruited them from the relief camps. They also denied giving out Bibles in the relief camps and villages even though they were caught giving out Tamil-language Bibles to the refugees.[20]

Gospel for Asia is seeking to train and send 100,000 native missionaries into the most unreached areas of Asia. Their website boasts of planting over 10 churches every day.

Mug shots of missionaries you can sponsor from their web site

They run a "sponsor a missionary" scheme where $30 a month buys an indigenous missionary working covertly among non-Christian communities. The FAQ for sponsors states that a sponsored missionaries cannot receive letters from their sponsor as that might blow their cover: 

"native missionaries must not be viewed as working for a foreign agency, as this could severely hinder their work among the non-Christian communities"[2]. 

Gospel for Asia has set up a special ministry to convert Muslims. They offer specific training for working among Muslims, and provide radio broadcasts in Bengali, Dari and Pashto - targeting the Muslims of India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.[3]

Indian Villages Replaced By Christian Communities

In Andhra Pradesh, India, a plan is developing to build "Christian communities" to replace destroyed seashore villages. In a dispatch that the evangelical group Focus on the Family posted on its Web site, James Rebbavarapu of India Christian Ministries said a team of U.S. engineers had agreed to help design villages of up to 400 homes each, "with a church building in the center of them." 

The same dispatch mention how aid is passed out at the discretion of their pastors - 50 pastors are drawing up lists of those families who will receive "an authorized form which will qualify them to collect their portion of food and clothing".[10]

Abducting Muslim Orphans

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, lost well over 170,000 people to the killer sea surges. The Indonesian government estimated that 35,000 children have been made homeless, orphaned or separated from their parents in Aceh, where Muslims make up 98 percent of the population.

Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordination, has highlighted that “There is a big and consistent rumor that children orphans are now systematically adopted, kidnapped, taken away to be Christianized in the West. It is happening but they are isolated cases but we need to stop it immediately.”[21]

Subsequently it was exposed in the Washington Post[18] that WorldHelp, an American missionary group, abducted 300 Muslim tsunami orphans from the province of Aceh and plans to raise them as Christians with the aim of one day returning them back to Aceh as Christians missionaries to convert the Muslim population.

Muslim child prays in a Mosque in a refugee camp in Banda Aceh.
She survived the tsunami, but will she survive the scavenging missionaries
 bent on abducting Muslim children "for Christ"

The Rev. Vernon Brewer, president of WorldHelp, initially claimed that the Indonesian government has given him permission to take the children and that he had "explicitly" told them that the children would be raised as Christians - these claims were later proved to be lies.

On their web site, WorldHelp present the tsunami disaster as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to- reach areas:

"Normally, Banda Aceh is closed to foreigners and closed to the gospel, but because of this catastrophe, our partners there are earning the right to be heard and providing entrance for the gospel," WorldHelp said in an appeal for funds on its Web site. 

The appeal said WorldHelp want to "plant Christian principles as early as possible" in the 300 Muslim children, all younger than 12, who lost their parents in the tsunami. 

"These children are homeless, destitute, traumatized, orphaned, with nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat," it said. "If we can place them in a Christian children's home, their faith in Christ could become the foothold to reach the Aceh people." 

Brewer said his organization had collected about $70,000 in donations and was seeking to raise an additional $350,000 to build the Christian orphanage.

Rev Vernon Brewer -
but whose children are they?

WorldHelp is based in Virginia : 1148 Corporate Park Drive, Forest, VA 24551. It was founded in 1991 by Rev. Vernon Brewer and now have missionary bases in 50 countries. Their collaborators in this abduction were local missionaries Henry and Roy Lanting, a father-son team who run a Bible school in Manadol. Henry, 59, received his missionary training at Dallas Theological Seminary, and his son Roy, 27, is a U.S. citizen and graduated from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

After the publicity sparked a furor in Indonesia WorldHelp seems to have abandoned its plan for these 300 orphans. But the Washington Post Jan 15 edition notes that: 

'WorldHelp now is seeking other Indonesian orphans to be placed in a Christian home and will make every effort to ensure that the $70,000 it has raised is used for the purposes that donors intended, Brewer said in his e-mail to supporters.'

And their website also talks of other countries: 

'..we will also be identifying children in other countries who have been orphaned..'[4]

Their other projects include "Bibles for Iraq"- under the guise of humanitarian relief they enter Iraq to distribute Arabic bibles. They have missionary teams in Jordan and Egypt working on the project. Brewer sees Iraq as a spiritual war with Muslims cast as Satan:

"It's so clear to me that this conflict in Iraq is a spiritual war ... between Satan and Jesus Christ."[5]

On their website they are urging people to donate quickly before the elections come:

"Christianity is just starting to spread throughout Iraq. But it could be choked off at any moment if the wrong people come into power in Iraq in the elections at the end of January. We only have a few more weeks.."[5]

Food In One Hand... Bible In The Other

Many groups are exploiting peoples need for food and water as a means to distribute bible tracts and other missionary texts. Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family include excerpts from a Christian book written by Dobson, founder of the influential media ministry, in 300,000 survival packets bound for the region.

Judy Billings from International Bible Society, also based in Colorado Springs, explained "With the disaster, people are open to God's word. They're in a crisis."[6] So when the tsunami struck, the group prepared the distribution of 100,000 Christian texts.

Leaflets distributed to tsunami survivors 
telling them to prepare for death & accept Jesus as saviour

The American Tract Society has released the new Gospel tracts entitled "When Disaster Strikes"[7] for donation to Victims Relief Ministries who are sending more than 200 workers to Sri Lanka. The leaflets to be distributed to tsunami survivors tell them to prepare for death. The tracts, which describe in detail famous disasters and tragedies from around the world, suggest that people can only be 'saved' if they confess their sins and accept Jesus as their lord and saviour. 

Bible In One Hand.. Other Hand Empty

In Sri Lanka one American missionary group - Antioch Community Church from Waco, Texas, have even angered local Christian leaders by their overt proselytizing. Relief camp residents have complained that these Americans have staged plays on Jesus and got their children to draw pictures of him, they have held group prayers where they tried to heal a partly paralyzed man and a deaf 12 year-old girl.[17]

W. L. P. Wilson, 38, a Buddhist, 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. He said the Americans were trying to convert him to Christianity but that he was in "a helpless situation now" and needed aid. "Whenever I ask for help they always mention God, but they do not give any money for treatment."

Missionaries from Antioch Community Church 
targeting orphans in relief camps in Sri Lanka for conversion - 
on their web site they call it performing "children's ministry"

The Rev. Duleep Fernando, a Methodist minister based in Colombo, 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.

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."

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." 

According to the Waco church group's Web site, its teams in Sri Lanka and Indonesia are performing "children's ministry," seeing "many people saved" and continuing to "minister to families and children through prayer and evangelism." The congregation uses small groups called "cell churches" to attract new members.

A January 18th 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."

Remember Afghanistan?

Two members of the Antioch Community Church, Dayna Curry & Heather Mercer, have already been arrested in the past for using aid work as a cover for missionary work in Afghanistan in August 2001.

Missionaries Dayna Curry & Heather Mercer 
welcomed home by President Bush for a job well done

They were part of a larger group of missionaries who were caught in Afghanistan by the Taliban. The group were distributing Persian language Bibles and Pashtu-language children's books about the life of Jesus Christ. There were several slides depicting the life of Christ. They showed flash cards for learning the Bible in local languages[14] and the Jesus Film on dvd[15]. One of the groups were caught using Bibles to teach English. They ran extensive English-language classes for Afghans throughout the country. After their release Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer admitted to proselytizing and said if given the chance they would do it again. They where warmly received by President Bush who referred to them as "courageous souls".

Looking up to a white god
- the Jesus Film shown to black African school children

The Jesus Film website describes how their co-ordinators for the middle east, John and Ashli, organized a small delegation of western women to go to Afghanistan to convert Afghans by showing the “JESUS” film, which is available in 887 languages, to people who have never seen a television:

"a woman who hides a small, portable DVD player and tiny speakers strung around her neck, under her burka. She knows that Muslim men will never search (touch) a woman. She goes from home to home, sets up the equipment and shows “JESUS!” Another couple has shown “JESUS” to 27 families who all came to Christ!"[16]

Convert Or Starve

The India News reported on 16 Jan 2005[19], that Christian missionaries refused aid to a Hindu village devastated by the tsunami because they did not agree to convert to Christianity:

Villagers furious with Christian Missionaries:

[India News]: Samanthapettai, Jan 16 : Rage and fury has gripped this tsunami-hit tiny Hindu village in India's southern Tamil Nadu after a group of Christian missionaries allegedly refused them aid for not agreeing to follow their religion.

Tsunami orphans - first they lost their parents, 
now they are asked to give up their religion in return for biscuits and water

Samanthapettai, near the temple town of Madurai, faced near devastation on the December 26 when massive tidal waves wiped it clean of homes and lives. 

Most of the 200 people here are homeless or displaced , battling to rebuild lives and locating lost family members besides facing risks of epidemic, disease and trauma. 

Jubilant at seeing the relief trucks loaded with food, clothes and the much-needed medicines the villagers, many of who have not had a square meal in days, were shocked when the nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water. 

Heated arguments broke out as the locals forcibly tried to stop the relief trucks from leaving. The missionaries, who rushed into their cars on seeing television reporters and the cameras refusing to comment on the incident and managed to leave the village. 

Disappointed and shocked into disbelief the hapless villagers still await aid. 

Director Of Crusades Heads Tsunami Team

On January 12, a confidential email from the hate monger Jerry Falwell, who previously called the Prophet Muhammad a "terrorist"[7] and is currently Chancellor of Virginia-based Liberty University, revealed a secret missionary agenda behind a plea for donations to support relief work in tsunami hit countries.

Hate monger Rev.Jerry Falwell called 
the Prophet Muhammad a "terrorist"

According to the email, Liberty University's "Director of International Crusades" will head a team sent to the region to distribute relief supplies. "In addition we will be presenting the Gospel to tens of thousands of persons through distribution of Gospel tracts written in the native languages of the area. Our ultimate purpose for this first mission is to set the stage for many other missions trips to this Asian region by hundreds of Liberty students in the months to come," said the email.[8]

Baltimore-based World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, also see their missionary work as a two stage process. Initially the focus is on humanitarian aid while looking for opportunities to later encourage conversions in southern Asia.

World Relief spokesman Chris Pettit cited as a model the group's work helping war-ravaged Cambodians in the early 1990 s. Long after the crisis, World Relief workers revived their relationships with residents and encouraged them to build churches. Pettit said there are now 300 churches in the Cambodian areas where they worked.

“Historically, the best approach is to provide help and build trust, and then through that trust, opportunities arise. We plant the seeds,” he said.

More Imperialism

The U.S. government has said it hopes American tsunami aid improves its image abroad, particularly with Muslims. Yet when asked about the missionary hordes unleashed on the tsunami survivors, State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said "We can't control them, they are free to do what they're going to do."[9]. Many observers see this as yet another facet of American imperialism and empire building.

US imperialism in Iraq

"When the missionaries came to Africa
they had the Bible and we had the land.
They said "Let us pray."
We closed our eyes.
When we opened them
we had the Bible and they had the land."

Bishop Desmond Tutu

[6] Proselytizing during relief efforts divides Christian groups , 17 Jan 2005, Eric Gorski, Denver Post
[7] On CBS programme "60 Minutes" in 2002.
[9] In Asia, some Christian groups spread supplies - and the word, BY JIM REMSEN, Knight Ridder Newspapers, 9 Jan 2005.
[12] Baptist Press, In Aceh, survivors and aid workers mourn the dead, focus on the living, by Alan Brant 7 Jan 2005.
[13] Christians on mission to convert tsunami survivors, Sebastien Berger, 22/01/2005 Daily Telegraph
[14] Taliban present evidence against aid group, Associated Press 6 Sept 2001.
[17] Mix of Quake Aid and Preaching Stirs Concern, By DAVID ROHDE, January 22, 2005, New York Times
[18] Christian group's plan for orphans Muslim children will be raised by missionaries, Alan Cooperman, Washington Post, Thursday, January 13, 2005
[20] Critics say some Christians spread aid and Gospel, by Kim Barker, Chicago Tribune 22 January 2005
[21] British Muslims Counter Tsunami Proselytizing, IslamOnline 14 Jan 2005. Mustafa Abdel-Halim


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