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Author Topic: Christian "Aid" ??  (Read 14271 times)
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Posts: 396


« on: January 13, 2005, 07:02:02 AM »

Here it go again...using tradgety as a means to convert....

Group Says It Relocated 300 Orphans
Va. Missionaries Talk of Raising Muslim Tsunami Victims in Christian Home

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Virginia-based missionary group said this week that it has airlifted 300 "tsunami orphans" from the Muslim province of Banda Aceh to Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, where it plans to raise them in a Christian children's home.

The missionary group, WorldHelp, is one of dozens of Christian, Muslim and Jewish charities providing humanitarian relief to victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami that devastated countries around the Indian Ocean, taking more than 150,000 lives.

Most of the religious charities do not attach any conditions to their aid, and many of the larger ones -- such as WorldVision, Catholic Relief Services and Church World Service -- have policies against proselytizing. But a few of the smaller groups have been raising money among evangelical Christians by presenting the tsunami emergency effort 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 this week.

The appeal said WorldHelp was working with native-born Christians in Indonesia who 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. If we can place them in a Christian children's home, their faith in Christ could become the foothold to reach the Aceh people," it said.

The Web site was changed, and the appeal was removed yesterday after The Washington Post called to inquire about it. The Rev. Vernon Brewer, president of WorldHelp in Forest, Va., said in a telephone interview the organization had collected about $70,000 in donations and was seeking to raise another $350,000 to build the orphanage.

Brewer said the Indonesian government gave permission for the orphans to be flown to Jakarta last week and was aware that they would be raised as Christians.

["We have no knowledge of this," Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said today in Jakarta. "If confirmed, this would constitute a serious violation of the standing ban by the Indonesian government on the adoption of Acehnese children affected by the tsunami disaster and appropriate steps would be taken accordingly." He added that he did not believe any Indonesian official would have approved the transfer of the children.] "These are children who are unclaimed or unwanted. We are not trying to rip them apart from any existing family members and change their culture and change their customs," Brewer said. "These children are going to be raised in a Christian environment. That's no guarantee they will choose to be Christians."

Brewer, a Baptist minister, was the first person to graduate from the Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., in 1971. He served as a vice president of the Christian university before founding WorldHelp in 1991. It has since grown to 100 full-time employees in the United States and helps to support indigenous Christian missionaries in about 50 countries, he said.

Brewer said WorldHelp is an independent organization but has a friendly, informal relationship with nearby Liberty University, which held a fundraiser at a basketball game Monday night to benefit WorldHelp's tsunami relief projects.

"I think Vernon [Brewer] has got the right approach," Falwell said yesterday. "If Christian ministries can earn the right to be heard -- you don't preach the gospel to a hungry man, you feed him, then if he wants to hear something you've got to say, that's nice, but it's not required."

WorldHelp's primary partners in Indonesia, Brewer said, are Henry and Roy Lanting, a father-son team who run an orphanage and school near Jakarta. Roy Lanting is also a graduate of Liberty University, Brewer said. Efforts to reach the Lantings by telephone and e-mail yesterday were unsuccessful.

"First and foremost, our intention is not to evangelize but to show the love of Jesus Christ through our acts of compassion," Brewer said. "We are not using this open window of disaster to move in and set up a beachhead for evangelism. That's not the spirit of what we're trying to accomplish. . . ." The Rev. Arthur B. Keys Jr., president of Arlington-based International Relief and Development, a non-religious aid group that has a U.S. government contract to rebuild the water and sanitation system in Banda Aceh, said he feared overt evangelizing could produce a backlash. "I think there's a danger that all international groups could be tarnished by this," said Keys, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. "I think we have to go out of our way to assure people that we're there to help, period."

One missionary support group, Advancing Native Missions based in Charlottesville, said it has raised more than $100,000 to pay for distribution of food, water and cooking utensils in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and South India.

Its workers often hand out Bibles or other religious tracts along with emergency supplies because disaster victims naturally question the existence of God, spokesman Oliver Asher said.

"It's easy to be an atheist when you have no crisis in your life. But have a 50-foot tidal wave sweep your family and village away, it makes you ponder the big questions in life," he said.

Operation Mobilization USA, based in Tyrone, Ga., has raised about $60,000 to address "both the physical and the spiritual needs" of tsunami victims, according to its vice president for resource development, Douglas R. Barclay.

He said Operation Mobilization, founded in 1957, supports about 3,700 missionaries in 110 countries and moved quickly to provide water, food and medical supplies after the tsunami hit. "In these situations, we're not going to go out and blatantly preach to them, we're just going to demonstrate God's love by addressing their physical needs and sharing our beliefs one on one," he said.

One of the largest and best-known evangelical Christian relief groups is Samaritan's Purse of Boone, N.C., which is headed by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. It sparked international controversy by openly mixing evangelization with its relief work after Hurricane Mitch in Central America in 1998 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year. But it has made great efforts to be "sensitive to local concerns" in areas hit by the tsunami, Franklin Graham said.

Correspondent Alan Sipress in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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Posts: 396


« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2005, 07:05:02 AM »

Tsunami Orphans Won't Be Sent to Christian Home

By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005

The Virginia-based missionary group WorldHelp has dropped its plans to place 300 Muslim "tsunami orphans" in a Christian children's home, the group's president, the Rev. Vernon Brewer, told news agencies yesterday.

The children were still in the Muslim province of Aceh and had not been airlifted to Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, according to an e-mail under Brewer's name circulating yesterday among his supporters.

The Rev. Vernon Brewer says Indonesia refused to let the children be taken to a Christian orphanage.

In an interview Tuesday for an article published in yesterday's Washington Post, Brewer said that the children already had been airlifted to Jakarta and that the Indonesian government had given permission for them to be placed in a Christian children's home. Brewer did not return calls from The Post yesterday to his home, office and cell phone to address the discrepancy.

In the e-mail, as well as in statements given to Reuters and Agence France-Presse, Brewer said WorldHelp had raised $70,000 to place 50 of the children in a Christian orphanage but had halted its efforts when it learned on Wednesday that the Indonesian government would not allow it.

"Once we became aware that the government had refused to let these children be placed in a Christian home, we immediately stopped all fundraising efforts for the remaining 250 Indonesian orphaned children and appeals were removed from our website," the e-mail said.

The group's plan to raise children from Muslim families in a Christian home struck a nerve in Indonesia, which had regulations in place even before the tsunami requiring orphans to be raised by people of their own religion. This rule was adopted in large part to ensure that Muslim children were not converted.

In response to fears that Acehnese tsunami orphans would be trafficked, the Indonesian Department of Social Affairs adopted a further prohibition on people taking children out of the province. Officials said the only exemptions were for relatives.

Despite these restrictions, radical Muslim activists in Indonesia have warned against the operations of some Christian relief groups, arguing that their ultimate motive is to convert the Acehnese away from Islam, which has long been a part of the province's cultural identity. Though most Indonesians do not share the radicals' extreme agenda, these concerns have resonated among many in the country, who remain suspicious of foreigners and particularly Westerners.

In Brewer's e-mail yesterday, which was forwarded to The Post by a WorldHelp supporter, he said WorldHelp thought it had the Indonesian government's permission for its plans because of a report from the charity's Christian partners in Indonesia, Henry and Roy Lantang.

On Jan. 3, he said, the Lantangs sent WorldHelp, based in Forest, Va., near Lynchburg, a message saying they had "just received news that approximately 300 children under the age of 12 who had become orphans are at the airport in Banda Aceh and Medan waiting to be transported to Jakarta." The Lantangs added that the "rescuers of these children" had issued an open invitation to "any organization or family willing to adopt or take care of" the children.

"It was our understanding that this was done with the permission of the Indonesian government," Brewer's e-mail said. But because of "a huge backlash from the Islamic community in Aceh, the government of Indonesia is now refusing to allow the orphaned children to be placed in any non-Muslim homes," the e-mail said.

Reuters and AFP quoted Brewer as saying WorldHelp learned of the Indonesian government's refusal Wednesday, the day the fundraising appeal was taken off the group's Web site, and the day before The Post's article was published about the group's plans.

Before WorldHelp changed its Web site, it contained an appeal for funds that described the Aceh people as "strict Sunni Muslims" who "have been very instrumental in spreading Islam throughout Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia." Normally, it said, "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." The fundraising appeal went on to say that WorldHelp was working with Christian partners in Indonesia who want to "plant Christian principles as early as possible" in the 300 Muslim children.

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

In the message yesterday, Brewer said he makes "no apologies for the fact that World Help is a Christian organization." He said the organization is seeking other orphaned children in need of a home and is making every effort to ensure that all funds raised for tsunami children are used as designated.

"We're really not trying to proselytize," Brewer said in an interview with Reuters. "It's no different than what Mother Teresa did by taking Hindu orphan children and placing them in a Roman Catholic children's home in Calcutta, and she won the Nobel Peace Prize for doing that."

Correspondent Alan Sipress contributed to this report from Jakarta

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