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January 22, 2005

Evangelical Relief Workers: Not Just for Hungry Africans Anymore

Anyone who read Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell understands why mixing Christian evangelism with relief work is dishonorable. Turns out, some people see the aftermath of the tsunami as a perfect time to increase their conversion efforts.

David Rohde, with contributions from Neela Banerjee, writes about this problem in the NYT. Here's a classic example of why evangelism and humanitarian relief don't mix:

W. L. P. Wilson, 38, a 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. Mr. Wilson, a Buddhist, said that he believed that the Americans were trying to convert him to Christianity but that he was in "a helpless situation now" and needed aid.

"They told me to always think about God and about Jesus and you will be healed," he said. "Whenever I ask for help they always mention God, but they do not give any money for treatment."

Now perhaps I am biased because my religion doesn't believe in evangelism. But seriously folks. Even the major Christian relief agencies agree that relief and religion shouldn't be mixed. Alas, it's not just a random small church from Waco, Texas that refuses to recognize this crucial separation. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University plans to send evangelicals to South Asia armed with food, medical supplies, and scriptures.

How long before people learn that their religious beliefs might be a panacea for their own problems; but the world would be a helluva lot better if people stopped trying to shove their beliefs down the throats of others? Don't get me wrong - I respect religious people and I respect their right to practice their religions. I just wish everyone could do that without prostelytizing.

Posted by cj at January 22, 2005 6:01 PM

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