British Muslims Counter Tsunami Proselytizing
Additional Reporting By Mustafa Abdel-Halim, IOL Staff
CAIRO , January 14 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) – Muslim groups in Britain are to build children villages in areas affected by quake-triggered tsunami in Asia, amid calls for counterbalancing the rising influence of Christian missionaries there.
“Muslim charities, along with international human relief groups, are to build children villages to care for children who lost their families after the massive disaster,” Ihtisham Hibatullah, the spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain, said Friday, January 14.
Hibatullah, whose group is one of the leading Muslim organizations in Britain , told IslamOnline over the phone, times of calamity should not be misused by non-Muslims.
He was speaking one day after US daily the Washington Post published a report revealing that a US missionary group plans to Christianize 300 Muslim children from the Indonesian province of Aceh .
The Virginia-based WorldHelp has raised money among evangelical Christians by presenting the massive natural disaster in Asia as a rare opportunity to make converts in hard-to-reach areas, according to the American daily.
“Normally, Banda Aceh is closed to foreigners and closed to the gospel. But, because of this catastrophe, our partners there are earning the right to be heard and providing entrance for the gospel,” the missionary group said in a fund appeal on its Web site.
WorldHelp said, a few hours after the publication of the Post report, that the Indonesian government had refused permission to move 300 “tsunami orphans” from Aceh to a Christian children's home in Jakarta .
After the tsunami hit Aceh, Christian aid groups have also rushed in, quietly falsely promising salvation in this predominantly Muslim region.
Tens of thousands of children in the worst hit countries lost their parents in the Asian disaster that struck on December 26.
The children village project is supported by many Muslim groups in Britain including MAB, the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK Islamic Mission, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in UK (FOSIS) and the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB).
A number of Christian groups who rushed in after the outbreak of the disaster vowed continued attempts of Christianization in Muslim areas.
“We prefer to address the physical needs first,” said William Suhanda, an Indonesian whose Christian group “Light of Love For Aceh” is helping distribute food in Banda Aceh, according to The Associated Press (AP) Friday, January 14.
“We also want to expose them to Christian values.”
Aceh, like the rest of Indonesia , is overwhelmingly Muslim.
Evangelists, like American Mark Kosinski, say it's impossible to separate relief activities from sharing the Gospel, the US news agency added.
It quoted Kosinski as acknowledging he was warned to tone down his message but says he has “a job to do.”
“These people need food but they also need Jesus,” said Kosinski, who arrived in the Indonesian island of Sumatra this week from Malaysia .
On Thursday, Jan Egeland, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordination, highlighted isolated cases of attempts to adopt or kidnap “tsunami Muslim orphans” to convert them.
“There is a big and consistent rumor that children orphans are now systematically adopted, kidnapped taken away to be Christianized in the West. It is happening but they are isolated cases but we need to stop it immediately,” Egeland told reporters.
Meanwhile, the collection of religious groups in Aceh, which has only five churches, has raised the possibility of sectarian violence, the AP warned.
“Any time you have a strong Muslim community and concerns about Christianization, there is going to be conflict,” said Eddy Rubble, a North Carolina Christian who is volunteering in Aceh.
Muslim groups in Aceh, on their part, have rushed in to fill a void left by the government and quickly set up medical clinics, opened schools and are providing much of the food and medicines for tens of thousands of refugees, the AP reported.
The Islamic Defenders Front spent much of this week removing corpses from collapsed homes.
The most prominent Muslim group is the Justice and Welfare Party, a political party that has become popular with its message of morality and clean government.
Nearly 2,000 volunteers -- wearing the party's black and yellow -- arrived days after the disaster and are a common sight driving around the city or unloading tons of aid at the airport.