After the November 21 murder in Lebanon of American missionary Bonnie Penner Witherall, one would have been justified in expecting some sort of backlash. After all, officials are still trying to figure out whether she was killed out of general anti-American sentiment or if she was specifically targeted as a missionary—but in either case, the culprit is almost certainly a Muslim. As it turns out, the backlash continues to be not against extremist Muslims but evangelical Christians.

In Lebanon, the influential Muslim magazine The Pulpit of the Calling editorialized against Penner's sending agency, the Christian and Missionary Alliance. "They destroy the fighting spirit of the children, especially of the Palestinian youth, by teaching them not to fight the Jews, for the Palestinians to forgive the Jews and leave them Jerusalem," the article said, according to The New York Times.

Likewise, a Sunni Muslim cleric in the area hailed the shooting. "Actions of killing and bombings that target Americans in any place … are an expression of Muslim condemnation of U.S. policy," said Sheikh Maher Hammoud.

But it wasn't only Lebanese Muslims who condemned Witherall's missionary work. Bishop George Kwaiter, acting archbishop for the local Roman Catholic diocese, complained, "She was in the habit of gathering the Muslim children of the quarter and preaching Christianity to them while dispensing food and toys and social assistance." He likened Witherall and her fellow missionaries to terrorists, saying they operate in "cells" under the guise of Christianity. "Even we wonder who is behind them, who brought them, and in whose name they operate," he told the Associated Press.

Witherall's Baptist pastor in Sidon blamed other American evangelists. ...

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Evangelism Antagonism
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February 2003

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