Relaymedia

Missionaries Committed to Mission in Middle East Despite Clear and Present Danger

Jan 02, 2003 11:04 AM EST

To Mike Edens, a Baptist missionary in the Middle East, "it's much wiser and safer to be obedient to God and do his work than to do otherwise," even though he worries that his family would be a target of anti-American violence.'

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Eden's attitude explains the reason for the numbers of U.S. evangelical missionaries that increased in the Middle East over recent years despite the anti-American rage of Muslims among the area and warnings of Al Qaeda terror attacks from the U.S. government.'

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To the U.S. evangelical community, the Middle East will benefit the most in Christian teaching than anywhere else. And to that end many missionaries insisted on staying within the region despite present dangers.'

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A gunman with a concealed rifle entered a U.S. missionary hospital in Jibla, Yemen, killing three missionaries and seriously injuring a fourth. Even as the Southern Baptist Convention mourned the loss of its members, it vowed to remain in Jibla as long as the Yemeni government allows.'

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According to the observers from the U.S. churches, an estimate of low thousands of missionaries is dispatched in Middle East compared to the high hundreds ten years ago.'

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The State Department of U.S. continuously from time to time warned the missionaries in the Middle East of the dangers they face and that their safety cannot be guaranteed; these warnings increased since the Sept. 11th attack. Some missionaries decided to return to the U.S. and most missionary groups have prepared plans for quick evacuation of their workers from the area.'

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Most countries in the Middle East are eager for Western groups to run hospitals and clinics and working on economic development and education. Some missionary groups focused on serving the social needs of the locals and hope that a relation may be drawn toward Christianity indirectly by example.'

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Other missionaries believe that their faith as Christians is to spread the Gospel. Most of these efforts resulted in friction with the Muslims and other Christian missionary groups who believe that such action would place their work in jeopardy.'

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Some Islamic groups complain that the missionaries are taking advantage of the Muslims' needs. "They go into poor areas, and they take advantage of their power," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group in Washington. "They hold a blanket in one hand and a Bible in the other and say you can't get one without the other.... It's the deceit I don't like."'

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When tensions arose, it was usually over U.S. foreign policy, Edens, an official of the Southern Baptist Convention¡¦s International Mission Board, said.'

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A Palestinian friend once angrily challenged him over a TV news show that depicted an American group going to great lengths to dislodge a whale from an Alaskan ice floe.'

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"He said, 'You Americans will spend millions of dollars to free a whale, yet Palestinian children are dying and you don't care about them.' That's the kind of confrontation we usually faced," Edens said. '

By Tony C.
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