Prayers of Kenyan truckers captured by Iraqis answered
Last Thursday, David Shira Mukaria and Jakubu Maina Kamau were shown on the Arabic satellite television channel al-Jazeera along with the bodies of slain British soldiers. But Mukaria and Kamau weren't soldiers—they were Kenyan civilians who work for the Springfood company in Saudi Arabia. As part of their job, they'd been contracted to bring water and food from Camp Rhino in Kuwait to U.S. troops in Iraq. (Earlier reports said they were bringing water and food aid to Iraqi prisoners of war.)
"The other trucks [in the convoy] finished unloading before us," Mukaria explained. "On the way back we lost the way. The convoy switched off the lights and they were driving too fast."
Outside Basra, they were captured. "They beat us, tied us up, tied our hands and feet and covered our eyes and they took everything we had," Mukaria told The Scotsman. "They kept us there for 10 days. We had no food or water, nothing. We decided, because we are Christians, we would ask God to save us or take our souls to heaven. We prayed to God every day. We could not see them but we heard them talking. Some of them were speaking in English. Some of them said 'Kill them,' some of them said 'No.' We just prayed and prayed."
Their prayers were answered. "David and I are both Christians, and this morning I said, 'We must pray together for a miracle,'" says Kamau. "So we prayed, and 30 minutes later the door swung open, and there were two British soldiers standing there. God must have given them the power to save us. It really was a miracle that they came."
Franklin Graham under fire for plans to aid Iraq
As we noted earlier, Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse plans to bring drinking water systems, shelter, household items, and medical kits to Iraq as soon as the fighting abates. The group also plans to bring spiritual relief.
"We go where we have the opportunity to meet needs," Ken Isaacs, international director of projects for Samaritan's Purse, said in a Religion News Service article posted on our site last week. "We do not deny the name of Christ. We believe in sharing him in deed and in word. We'll be who we are."
Such an effort horrifies some, and a backlash is appearing in the press.
"Franklin Graham obviously thinks it is a war against Islam," Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Beliefnet (see World's recent cover story on Hooper's organization). "This is a guy who gave the invocation at President Bush's inauguration and believes Islam is a wicked faith. And he's going to go into Iraq in the wake of an invading army and convert people to Christianity? Nothing good is coming of that." Groups like Graham's, he says, "go after [Muslims] when they're most vulnerable and hope they can get them to leave their faith. It's a very despicable practice."
Hooper also talked to The Washington Post, calling Graham's plan "a colossally bad move."
He's not the only one complaining. In an MSNBC opinion piece, Ira Rifkin says Graham's plans (as well as similar ones from the Southern Baptist Convention) are "the last thing the Bush administration needs. … Should he acquiesce to evangelical demands, the result would be untold damage to American interests worldwide that no amount of presidential posturing about Islam being 'a religion of peace' would undo."
But Graham and his organization say the story isn't much of a story. He told Beliefnet that he first went to Baghdad 30 years ago, and that Samaritan's Purse has been working closely with Christians in Iraq since the last Gulf War. "I know exactly what the situation is, and I've briefed my people very well on it," he said.
And he's well aware of potential problems of combining evangelism with relief work. After all, this isn't Samaritan's Purse's first relief effort—it isn't it's first war relief effort, either. "I would not take advantage of these people in their hour of tragedy to force them or coerce them to make them Christian converts," Graham told USA Today. "I don't do that at any time."
"We are an evangelical organization, nobody denies that," Isaacs told The Washington Post. "At the same time, I think it's important to recognize we're a very experienced relief organization. Compassion and service is a vital expression of Christianity. We don't have an evangelism strategy. We don't have a strategy to share our faith. … We don't have Bibles waiting in the wings, or Christian literature waiting in the wings."
Besides, says Isaacs, Samaritan's Purse is already working in several Muslim countries. "Muslims in positions of authority know what Franklin has said, and they have confronted us with it. And I just say, 'You know what? Our work will speak for itself.'"
Roy Oksnevad, director of the Ministries to Muslims Department at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, says meeting spiritual needs while meeting physical ones isn't "despicable" at all. "Oftentimes, in times of crisis, it's important for us as Christians to walk with people and pray with them and help them find peace," he told The Denver Post. "And ultimately peace is found in Christ."
Still, says Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, it's about both spiritual and physical relief—and relief organizations must remember both. "We must do this with a genuine desire to serve human needs. If this is viewed as a pretense for evangelism, it will only hurt the Christian cause—and perhaps further endanger the lives of the 600,000 Christians in Iraq," he says in a Beliefnet piece. "I rejoice in the stated purposes of the Southern Baptists and Franklin Graham's ministry. And I will pray that these evangelicals will be given both the wisdom and courage to witness silently but compellingly to the spirit of Jesus as they perform this crucial humanitarian work."
Christians for and against Iraq war:
- The archbishop and the general | Time to clear up at least one apocryphal story floating around cyberspace about our secretary of state and the current archbishop of Canterbury (Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Onward, Christian pacifists | The debates of the 1930s repeat themselves (Joseph Loconte, The Weekly Standard)
- Maimonides on war | A religious tradition that President Bush might appreciate (David Klinghoffer, National Review Online)
- Christian council condemns war | "We condemn this unjustified war, which has no international legitimacy … those engaged will bear a tremendous responsibility in front of God, the people, and history," says Jordan's Council of Church Leaders (Jordan Times)
- Clergy has common sentiment: fighting should end soon | Still debate over whether Iraq war is justified (Enterprise-Record, Chico, Calif.)
- Priests, monks nabbed in latest war protest | Police arrested monks, priests, rabbis and other clergy in San Francisco on Friday (Reuters)
- Bishop encourages every effort for peace | Methodist bishop who denies divinity of Christ meets with Jesse Jackson and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but says meeting was "hopeless" because there's no way to stop war (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)
- With quiet aplomb, nun aids antiwar protesters | Sister Patricia Crowley said she had paid the $100 bail of at least 10 protesters (The Boston Globe)
- Sorting the good guys from the bad guys | They call it the fog of war, and in Iraq this week, it's been particularly dense (Kristen Campbell, Mobile [Ala.] Register)
- Chapter & verse | Reclaiming God from pro-war hypocrites—and unmasking Bush as a lousy Christian (Sherman Alexie, The Stranger, Seattle)
- Muslims, Christians side by side as Iraq peace protests sweep globe | Religions unite against war in Indonesia, where they've been killing each other (Associated Press)
- War in the locker room—God, Iraq split Americans | How it is in sunny Sonoma, in springtime, as slaughter begins (Olivia Crawford, Pacific News Service)
Spirituality in the military:
- Dispatch from the war: Guiding soldiers through adversity | A soldier tells of his unit's first encounter with enemy fire (Steve Munson, The Dallas Morning News)
- Chaplain's faith sees action in Iraqi desert | If Lt. Col. Eric Schwartz, commander of Task Force 1-64, is its brains and heart, then Capt. Ron Cooper, chaplain for the 700-plus soldiers, is its conscience and soul (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- In valley of death, a rush to nourish believers' souls | In the field with emergency ministers of the Eucharist (The Washington Post)
- The power of prayer | As the war rages on, many troops turn to religion (Newsday)
- Veterans find war is a powerful agent of spiritual change | Across the country, support groups and retreats for older vets are cropping up to address the long-term impacts of the battlefield on spirituality (The Dallas Morning News)
- Chaplain armed only with prayer | Fort Carson priest heading off to war (The Denver Post)
- Prayer books, beads offer comfort abroad | With the items came the desire to keep loved ones close to God—no matter their faith —as they face what will likely be the most difficult moments of their lives (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
- Chaplains respond as news from Iraq war puts Nellis AFB on edge | As a group, the chaplains said they're seeing more people at church services and in consultations since the Iraq war began (Associated Press)
- Troops find faith in things they carry | Thousands of the U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq are carrying concrete symbols of their faith, according to military chaplains (The Washington Post)
- Bibles OK, but '3 P's' prohibited | U.S. troops in Iraq can carry Bibles into combat. But don't send them pork, pornography, or political propaganda (The Washington Times)
Sermons and prayers about war:
- War from the pulpit | Leaders in most denominations add to national dialogue (San Bernardino County Sun, California)
- Church prays for both sides | St. David's Evangelical Congregational Church members gathered Sunday night to pray about the war (York Daily Record)
- Lent during wartime | Clergy say reflections on human shortcomings come easier in time of conflict (The Fort Pierce/PSL [Fla.] Tribune)
- God in wartime: religious leaders face difficult task | Despite indications for months that an armed conflict was on the way, the reality of war, like a death of a loved one or the onset of an illness, was hard for religious leaders to prepare for (Santa Cruz [Calif.] Sentinel)
- God wouldn't condone any war | Asking for divine help with violence is wrong (Martha Hill, The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla.)
- Sadness as church services reflect somber reality of war | First coffins of British servicemen killed in Iraq returned home (The Independent, London)
- Balancing prayer & politics | Clergy across West Michigan are wrestling with whether to speak out on the war (The Grand Rapids [Mich.] Press)
- What preachers are saying about war | Excerpts from sermons (The Charlotte [N.C.] Observer)
- War on Iraq: Brits told: pray for the president | Evangelical group In Touch Ministries have sent thousands of pamphlets called A Christian's Duty to Marines serving in the Gulf (Sunday Mail, Glasgow, Scotland)
- Prayer gives Montco church common ground on war | Members of Conshohocken United Methodist unite in support for U.S. troops and compassion for Iraqis (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Clergy against war walk 'delicate line' | While most Americans support it, the leaders of most denominations are publicly antiwar. Does that hobble clergy in ministering to congregants, especially those with loved ones away at war? (The Boston Globe)
- Outreach comforts families | Church creates supportive community during war with Iraq (The Dallas Morning News)
Missions and ministry:
- Ex-officer seeks access to Lindh | Bill Rhetts, now a chaplain, expresses a willingness to counsel the "American Taliban." (The Press-Enterprise, Inland California)
- Saving Sudan | Missionary speaks of ongoing humanitarian need in his homeland (Naples [Fla.] Daily News)
- Missionary helps Amazon Indians who slew his father | Steve Saint was not quite 5 when his father and four other Christian missionaries were speared to death by Ecuadoran Indians (The Toledo Blade)
- Christian alliance against drugs | Alliance comprises eight Christian drug rehabilitation centers (The Malaysian Star)
- Rockcastle County native killed in Guatemala | Missionary was leading a retreat (Lexington [Ky.] Herald-Leader)
- Also: Missionary from Kentucky shot dead in Guatemala (Associated Press)
- Former Mississippi Democratic Rep. Ronnie Shows hired by evangelist as a lobbyist | Indian evangelist K.A. Paul has clashed with some Baptist congregations by criticizing their overseas missionary work (The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.)
- Churches at frontline in AIDS war | Religious organizations have stepped up campaigns against Aids after the government reached out to them last week (The Nation, Nairobi, Kenya)
- Test pilot on mission to share God's love | Russell O'Quinn wasn't religious until friend died (The Huntsville [Ala.] Times)
- Push behind scholarship program for inmates' kids | A reading-based mentoring partnership with the Take Stock in Children group and several prison ministries, is aimed at breaking the cycle of crime that often leads children of inmates to their parents' fate (The Daytona Beach [Fla.] News-Journal)
- Wife of jailed activist keeps hope | Harvard Medical School researcher-lobbyist, a Christian, fights for husband's return from China (The Harvard Crimson)
- Law student risks his life as a missionary | Evangelist returns with serious aliments but, despite sickness and guerrillas, still has desire to help villagers in Colombia (The Ann Arbor [Mich.] News)
- Trial to open for three Dominican nuns jailed since peace protest at Colorado missile silo | The nuns say they were exercising their right to free speech when they cut through a fence around a Minuteman III missile silo, used their own blood to paint a cross on the military structure and began swinging at it with hammers (Associated Press)
- Henry J. Lyons, wife reach divorce settlement | Former Baptist leader to compensate victims (Associated Press)
- Police say suspect in New York City killing spree turned himself in because of Bible | Police said the Bible's admonition against murder apparently convinced a man with a history of mental problems to confess to fatally shooting four immigrants, three of them out of anti-Arab anger (Associated Press)
Marriage and family:
- Italy considers a proposal to cut the time to complete a divorce | The proposal would drastically reduce the time it takes to get a divorce in a country that has one of the world's highest concentrations of Roman Catholics (The New York Times)
- Church told to rethink bar on sex before marriage | Cohabitation: A Christian Reflection, by a working party of the Southwark Diocese, says the Church's traditional teaching that sex before marriage is wrong has been inherited from a different form of society from that of today and is now felt as a "heavy load" (The Times, London)
- 'V-club' getting more members | What started as a movement among cultural conservatives and evangelical Christians has now swelled into a mainstream push to get kids to remain chaste until marriage (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
- More black adoptions sought | Churches urge same-race adults to take in kids (The Denver Post)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Bishop's stance angers activists | Voice Of The Faithful Leader criticizes Lori's meeting ban (The Hartford [Conn.] Courant)
- Abuse survivors meet with Boston bishop | Bishop Richard Lennon met for the first time on Friday with an advocate group for clergy sex abuse victims and heard their concerns about how the Boston archdiocese has handled the abuse scandal (Associated Press)
- Also: SNAP urges Lennon role in legal fight (The Boston Globe)
- Possible Law successor decries secrecy | Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh, widely considered a strong candidate to be the next archbishop of Boston, said yesterday the clergy sex abuse scandal was largely caused by the culture of secrecy within the church and he advocates greater openness, not fundamental change, as the solution to the crisis (The Boston Globe)
- Claim of church rights panned | Lawyers for 500 alleged victims of sexual abuse by clergy argued to the state Appeals Court yesterday that religious freedom is no defense against their claims that church officials were negligent for transferring predatory priests from one parish to another without warning to parishioners (The Boston Globe)
- An Irish play seeks to ease the pain of child abuse survivors | "James X" tells the story of one man's troubled life, from birth to the savage reality of sexual abuse and its aftermath (The New York Times)
Other religions and interfaith relations:
- New York Freemasons start spreading the news | The New York Grand Lodge gets evangelistic (Los Angeles Times)
- Please restrain your followers, Jews ask Jensen | NSW Jewish Board of Deputies says it had received "complaints in the hundreds" in the past few years about inappropriate and disrespectful proselytizing by Anglicans in Sydney (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Slowly, friends slip away from a city in fear | The Iranians saved his life, says Hanna Toma Hanna, but they went on to torture him, pulling out his teeth and his fingernails to make him convert from Christianity to Islam (The Guardian, U.K.)
- Invocation by atheist prompts walkout in Charleston | Some of the half-dozen or so Charleston City Council members who left Tuesday said their religious beliefs compelled them to leave (Associated Press)
- To the Arabs, this crusade too will fail | Time is a mighty force. But a new Saladin would hasten the process (James Reston Jr., Los Angeles Times)
- Rabbi warns: Some Christians are attempting to convert Jews | Speaker says congregations should watch out for Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God (The Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.)
- Finding room for religious freedom | After protesters drove pagans from one meeting spot, a Carroll church offered sanctuary (The Baltimore Sun)
- Home schoolers get out of the house | As home schooling enters the mainstream, the adults who promote it have sought more ways of getting home schoolers out of the house, to broaden their social circles, and help them acquire the leadership credentials needed for college applications (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Calvinism making a comeback on some college campuses | The best antidote for "aggressive Calvinism" is a good dose of Calvin and a bigger dose of the Bible, a trio of Baptist religion professors told their colleagues (Associated Baptist Press)
- Lawsuit against school revived | Critics say the public schools' teaching method is religious (Sacramento Bee)
- Student numbers surge at religious schools | Almost all religious groups have increased student enrollments (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's religious studies program soars | It has become popular since its inception (Green Bay [Wisc.] Press-Gazette)
- Timothy Weber named president of Memphis Theological Seminary | Was at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (The Commercial Appeal, Memphis)
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