Iraq's Good Samaritans
A HUGE HOWITZER sits at the entrance of Baghdad's Al-Yarmouk Hospital to guard it against looters. Some work areas of the 1,000-bed facility seem startlingly bare—except that there's no shortage of patients. One Iraqi man pleads for help to pay for an operation he cannot afford, and a middle-aged woman barges into the middle of a conversation, demanding to know why U.S. forces have failed to deliver peace and security.
The tension in the air and the overwhelming needs are typical of many medical centers in Iraq. But there's another factor in the mix that some predicted would make the situation even worse: workers from Samaritan's Purse, the humanitarian aid organization headed by evangelist Franklin Graham. This summer, its team of technicians has delivered several truckloads of medical supplies and installed medical equipment to replace what had been looted after the war broke out. The Americans also trained the Iraqi hospital staff.
Following Graham's description of Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion" shortly after September 11, 2001, some newspaper columns and TV talk shows speculated that field workers from Samaritan's Purse would be insensitive, and that their delivery of humanitarian aid would be just a veneer to cover efforts at conversion. Despite the controversy Graham's comments generated around the world, actual reporting on how the Samaritan's Purse staff is interacting with Muslim communities has been almost nonexistent. Have Samaritan's Purse's relief efforts indeed done more harm than good, as was so widely feared? Though Graham declined to comment, people on the ground did not hesitate.
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Inside a small and nearly unfurnished office, the newly elected director of the Al-Yarmouk ...