Operation Iraqi Care Launched and Announced

May 26, 2003 01:20 PM EDT

WASHINGTON – The President of the National Association of Evangelicals announced the launch of a multi-party global prayer initiative for the Iraqi people during a press conference in Washington, May 22. “Operation Iraqi Care, “the Internet based effort by the World Prayer Team, the Presidential Prayer Team, World Relief and the Christian Emergency Network, provides an opportunity for Christians worldwide to join as “prayer partners” in helping Iraqis rebuild their country.

In addition to announcing the effort, the NAE President Ted Haggard discredited the criticism evangelistic organizations have been receiving for Christian relief programs in postwar Iraq.

Richard Cizik, Vice President of NAE called the criticism "erroneous thinking, it's an erroneous assumption (that they will proselytize),"

The NAE's aid arm, World Relief, which has 60 years of humanitarian service, and NAE member Samaritan's Purse, "understand the rules of the road and are well prepared and experienced to respond to social and humanitarian needs," Cizik added.

Calling the work of Samaritan's Purse, headed by Franklin Graham,"a good thing," he said the organization participated in humanitarian missions in Afghanistan and has said that it stands "at the doorsteps of Iraq" ready to help war victims there.

World Relief has also worked through partnerships with Iraqi and Chaldean churches, and Christian Arab communities in Jordan, Syria and Turkey in identifying project opportunities, including healthcare, home rehabilitation, school feeding, medicines, educational supplies and food distribution.

"The 39 million evangelicals in America who desire to help the Iraqis have come of age. We take the Bible seriously in our humanitarian response," Cizik said.

Critics to Iraqi Care have said evangelicals would aim to convert the mostly Muslim Iraqis to Christianity. As one "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd put it, Iraqi Care is mixing "a blend of pantry and Elmer Gantry" in sending help to the Iraq.

Nonetheless, as Operation: Iraqi Care was unveiled in the capital, in New York the United Nations lifted its sanctions on Iraq. Supporters say the move opens the road for the international community and humanitarian organizations to support the Iraqis in rebuilding their country.

By Pauline J.