LONDON, December 27 (www.IslamOnline.net) Shrouded in secrecy and under the guise of humanitarian aid, American missionaries, mainly evangelicals, are pouring into the predominantly Muslim Iraq, fearing the now "open door" may be soon closed when an Iraqi government takes over power in six months' time, a mass-circulation British daily reported on Saturday, December 27.
The goal now is spreading some one million Arabic bibles along with Arabic religious videos and tracts throughout Iraq, after only 8,000 copies were circulated in their last missions, said The Telegraph.
The evangelical missionaries, who believe that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God, are championing the future missions along with the International Mission Board (IMB), the missionary arm of the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in America.
"Southern Baptists have prayed for years that Iraq would somehow be opened to the gospel," said John Brady, the IMB's head for the Middle East and North Africa, in an appeal to the 16 million members of his church.
"Southern Baptists must understand that there is a war for souls under way in Iraq," he added.
Mission In Disguise
In public, the groups put the emphasis on their delivery of food parcels and their medical work. However, their internal fund-raising materials emphasize mission work, said the British daily.
One IMB bulletin said Iraqis understood "who was bringing the food . . . It was the Christians from America."
Another bulletin said that aid workers were handing out copies of the New Testament.
The paper added that Southern Baptists from North Carolina visited Iraq in October to circulate 45,000 boxes of donated food.
"Children starved of attention and I could tell some of them have not eaten well. But their biggest need is to know the love of Christ," said Jim Walker, one of the Baptists.
Jon Hanna, an evangelical minister from Ohio who has recently returned from Iraq, applied for a new passport to travel there, describing himself as a humanitarian worker.
"I was worried the U.S. authorities might try to stop us, might be worried we were going to start a riot with our Bibles," he told The Telegraph.
Hanna underlined that an American passport is all one needs to enter Iraq.
"A U.S. passport is all you need to get in, until the new Iraqi government takes over. What we thought was a two-year window, originally, has narrowed down to a six month window," said Hanna, referring to the anticipated handover of power to the Iraqis.
Under an agreement between U.S. administrator Paul Bremer and the U.S.-selected Iraqi Governing Council unveiled last November,
a provisional Iraqi government is to be formed by June, named by a transitional assembly to be elected by the end of May.
But U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on November 16 that the plan would have no effect on U.S. military presence in the country.
Describing Islam as "false" and "antichrist" religion, Hanna, along with other missionaries, went on training courses on how to proselytize Arab Muslims before visiting Iraq.
Last month, Hanna had met two other American missionary teams in Baghdad.
One of the two teams, from the American state of Indiana, had shipped in 1.3 million Christian tracts, according to the British paper.
Jackie Cone, 72, a Pentecostalist grandmother from Ohio, who visited Iraq along with Hanna, argued that some Iraqis she met there had converted to Christianity.
She recalled a conversation with a Kurdish Muslim woman, who was to undergo a leg surgery that day, saying that she had prayed for her that the operation would not be required.
"I saw her that evening and she said God had healed her, and she hadn't needed the surgery. She didn't say Allah, she pointed to Heaven and gave God the glory," said Cone, who claimed that God had told her to join a second mission planned for January.
She further said that she led the woman and her brother in prayer.
"I'd given them a Bible and a Jesus video in Arabic. I think they think of themselves as Christians now," she claimed.
"They have the Bible and I hope they will grow in grace."
On March 28, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse said "workers" were on the Iraqi-Jordanian borders were ready to go in as soon as it is safe.
Graham, an outspoken critic of Islam who once called it a "wicked" religion, had also said he has relief workers "poised and ready" to go into Iraq to provide for the populations post-war "physical and spiritual needs".
Muslim League Warns Missionaries Heading For Iraq
RIYADH, April 15 (Islamonline.net & News Agencies) - The Muslim World League (MWL) warned Tuesday, April 15, that some "non-Muslim organizations" might exploit the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
"Non-Muslim organizations are preparing to enter Iraq to start their activity under the cover of providing humanitarian aid, as they normally exploit crises, wars and tragedies," MWL Secretary General Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Al-Turki cautioned.
He warned of "the dangers this poses to Muslims in Iraq" and called on the Iraqi people to adhere to Islam and to stay away from "ethnic and sectarian feuds".
Agence France-Presse (AFP), which carried the news, described "non-Muslim organizations" as a term used for Christian missionaries.
The MWL chief also appealed to Arab and Muslim countries and organizations to provide all possible aid to the Iraqi people and help them safeguard their territorial unity and cultural and Islamic heritage, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Iraq is an overwhelmingly Muslim country, with members of the Shiite sect making up around 60 percent of the population of about 24 million.
It is also home to a Christian minority numbering around 250,000.
In a recent interview with the religiously-oriented web site Beliefnet, Franklin Graham, son of the world-famous evangelist Billy Graham and one of the most outspoken U.S. critics of Islam, said he has relief workers "poised and ready" to go into Iraq to provide for the populations post-war physical and spiritual needs.
Graham, who has publicly called Islam a "wicked" religion, said his Samaritans Purse relief agency is in daily contact with U.S. government agencies in Amman, Jordan, about its plans.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. largest Protestant denomination, also reported that workers were on the Iraqi-Jordanian borders ready to go in as soon as it is safe.
Both Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention have been at the heart of controversial evangelical denunciations of Islam.
The Southern Baptist Convention and Graham�s Samaritan's Purse claimed their priority will be to provide food, shelter and other needs to war-ravaged Iraqis, but asserting that when convenient they will also share their Christian faith with Iraqis.
Graham told Beliefnet.com Wednesday, March 25, in a telephone interview from Samaritan�s Purse headquarters in Boone, N.C., �We realize we�re in an Arab country and we just can�t go out and preach.�
"I believe as we work, God will always give us opportunities to tell others about his Son�.We are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian I do this in the name of Jesus Christ. "
In his interview with Beliefnet.com, he renewed allegations that "the Qur'an teaches violence, not peace..."
Muslims were outraged that Graham would be allowed to help with Iraq�s humanitarian effort.
"Franklin Graham obviously thinks it is a war against Islam, "said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"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.�