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American Proselytizers Invade Iraq


The Age, Los Angeles, Apr. 20, 2003

"An army of Christian soldiers is poised to begin its own invasion of Iraq, despite concerns that militant American evangelism could provoke a violent backlash from the Muslim population. Already two Southern Baptist missionary leaders are preparing to spread the word of God to the Arabs. One is the Reverend Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, with a congregation of 15,000. He is head of In Touch Ministries and a board member of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, which backed President George Bush's campaign for the White House. The other evangelist is the Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, and head of Samaritan's Purse, a humanitarian and missionary group. He recently caused an uproar by calling Islam 'a violent and wicked religion,' and denouncing the prophet Muhammad as a pedophile and terrorist."
"Both men are close personal supporters of President Bush and were early enthusiasts of the Iraqi war. Mr. Stanley was an original board member of the Reverend Jerry Falwell's now defunct right-wing Moral Majority, and in a pro-war sermon he stated that 'a government has biblical grounds to go to war to liberate others in the world who are enslaved.' In Touch has an annual budget of $US40 million ($A65 million) and already broadcasts across the Middle East. In Saddam Hussein's Iraq it was only able to proselytise on short-wave radio, but it now plans to air Mr. Stanley's sermons in Arabic on satellite television and A.M. and F.M. 'The opportunity for expansion is phenomenal,' says Don Black, its vice-president of communications."
"Mr. Graham recently announced his intentions of going into Iraq and appears unconcerned by a warning he received in 1991. The U.S. constitution forbids mixing church and state, but Mr. Graham included missionary tracts with his aid program in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War. General Norman Schwarzkopf had his chaplain remonstrate with Mr. Graham for distributing tens of thousands of New Testaments in Arabic to his troops to pass on to Saudis - an illegal act in the country and contrary to the general's orders. Mr. Graham replied: 'I appreciate what you say but I am also under orders, from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.' "
"President Bush's Administration has made no definitive statement about the Bible brigade's invasion, although some advisers at the State Department wish he would warn against it. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer deflected suggestions of a Muslim backlash by saying: 'The President knows Islam is a religion of peace.' He and the missionaries appear to have forgotten what happened in Lebanon when President Ronald Reagan sent in U.S. marines in 1983. They co-operated with the Reverend Pat Robertson and his Christian Broadcasting Network while he aired pro-Israel sermons throughout the country. The U.S. withdrew after a Muslim suicide bomber rammed the marine barracks in a truck packed with explosives that killed 241 servicemen."