Magazine article Church & State

Relief Workers Accused of Seeking Converts in Muslim Indonesia

Magazine article Church & State

Relief Workers Accused of Seeking Converts in Muslim Indonesia

Article excerpt

Fundamentalist Christian relief workers who traveled to Indonesia to help rebuild the country after the devastating 2004 tsunami have been accused of inflaming interfaith tensions in the region by secretly targeting Muslims for conversion.

The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., examined the issue in a series of articles in late December. The stories by reporter Michael Gartland looked at the tensions created by the proselytism efforts of groups like Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse.

Graham's charity has received at least $10 million in federal aid since 2003. Although none of the money is earmarked for work in Indonesia, critics see the church-state alliance as problematic, especially in non-Christian countries.

Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, and attempts to convert Indonesians from Islam are illegal. Adopting another faith can also bring ostracism and social isolation, especially in rural areas.

Gartland concedes that overt proselytism efforts are rare. But he wrote that Muslims in the region where he traveled, Aceh--a territory on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra--remain extremely wary of relief groups tied to missionary organizations.

Part of the problem stems from the mission statement of Samaritan's Purse, which asserts, "We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ."

One Samaritan's Purse worker told Gartland he intends to stay behind after reconstruction to convert Muslims into born-again Christians. The man would not give his name, saying his safety would be jeopardized.

Another worker with the group, Mamat Matius, said he came from another part of Indonesia and considers himself a Christian evangelist. …

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