Mounds of garbage fester in the streets of Baghdad. Iraqis continue to suffer from a lack of basic services, including water and power. Hospital looting has deprived the city of key medical supplies. Meanwhile, stockpiles of medicine, food, and other relief goods remain stuck outside Iraq's borders as the country's typically broiling summer sets in.

Aid trickles in, but frustrated relief agencies wait as violence and insecurity in Iraq delay their entry. Several aid groups have threatened to stay out if the United States military decides to coordinate relief efforts longer than necessary. Relief agencies argue that working too closely with the armed forces could create a faulty perception that relief is tied to U.S. political objectives.

Even more formidable barriers await Christian groups that seek to combine witness to Jesus Christ with humanitarian aid.

Put on the Defensive

Ninety-six percent of Iraq's 22 million people are Muslim, and many have shown themselves hostile to any Christian presence.

This spring, American media complicated this challenge by feeding public suspicions that America is following its military campaign with an army of Christian soldiers disguised as aid workers. A spate of articles reignited controversy by dredging up the late 2001 remark by Franklin Graham, head of the Christian relief agency Samaritan's Purse, that Islam was "a very evil and wicked religion."

On March 26, a Religion News Service article reported that Samaritan's Purse and the Southern Baptist Convention would provide humanitarian relief among Iraqi Muslims. Next, the multifaith website Beliefnet posted a harsh assessment by Deborah Caldwell. Caldwell quoted the combative Muslim spokesman Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic ...

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