Christians 'help' tsunami victims?
(Top Posts - Distance From Belief
in christianity - 022605)

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January 16, 2005
Villagers furious with Christian Missionaries



Most of the 200 people here are homeless or dis-
placed , 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

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 hap-
less villagers still await aid.

"Many NGOs (volunteer groups) are extending help
to us but there in our village the NGO, which was till
now helping us is now asking us to follow the Chris-
tian religion. We are staunch followers of Hindu
religion and refused their request. And after that
these people with their aid materials are leaving the
village without distributing that to us," Rajni Kumar,
a villager said.


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Follow-up ...

Counting Sheep?


The proselytising zeal of American missionaries
knows no slack even in tsunami aid

Are American Christian evangelists using the devas-
tation wreaked by the tsunami to spread the word of
God—their God?

Disturbing stories from the region and fund-raising
appeals from religious leaders in the US who want
to "plant Christian principles as early as possible"
in the orphans of Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India
have raised profound questions about proselytis-
ation of vulnerable people in times of tragedy.

Some groups send help along with Bibles—in
Bhojpuri—to increase the fold in affected countries,
making it harder for others to provide relief.

By lacing help with questions of faith, however deli-
cately, evangelical groups can deepen religious
faultlines ...

The controversy surfaced earlier this month when
Vernon Brewer, president of the Virginia-based
missionary group World Help, told journalists he
wanted to airlift 300 'tsunami orphans' from Banda
Aceh to raise them in a Christian children's home.

He quickly retracted when the Indonesian govern-
ment banned adoptions by non-Muslim groups.

From India surfaced a story about Samanthapettai,
a fishing village in Tamil Nadu hit by the tsunami,
where some Christian missionaries reportedly re-
fused to distribute biscuits and water unless the
Hindu recipients agreed to change their faith. When
TV reporters approached the nuns, they refused to
comment and left.


Samaritan's Purse says it "serves the Church world-
wide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ".
The World Help website, which opens with a heart-
wrenching photo of a crying Indian woman, lists its
mission as "effective evangelism, discipleship, church
planting, humanitarian aid, child sponsorship, leader-
ship training and literature distribution".

A specific appeal, scrubbed clean last week from the
site, sought help to place Indonesian orphans so "their
faith in Christ could become the foothold to reach the
Aceh people".

"This kind of proselytisation demeans the idea of reli-
gious conversion, for it uses helplessness to spread
a religion," says Ashutosh Varshney, political science
professor at Michigan University. "A genuine change
in conviction remains the best basis for religious con-
version and should not be stopped. Few people in
abysmal distress can exercise sound judgement."


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