Media reports from several Muslim countries continue to express suspicion toward alleged US Christian designs to evangelize the Middle East. For instance, the Egyptian opposition daily Al-Ahrar (Aug. 7) quotes unnamed “prominent sources” in Ankara, claiming that there is an “American plan to Christianize thousands of Iraqis in the North of Iraq.”
The editor appears convinced that the American troops are doing their best to help the work of Christian missionaries there. In the Arab-West Report, which offers English summaries of religion-related items in the Egyptian media, the editor writes that there is obviously no indication of such an American conspiracy, while it is indeed accurate that individual American groups have become very active in Iraq and are not hindered in their efforts.
Such activities do not only cause irritation to Muslims, but also to leaders of local mainstream churches as well: Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman, Latin-rite Catholic archbishop of Baghdad, told the Missionary Services News Agency, his concerns about “Christian preachers who want to convert the Muslims.” According to the Archbishop, such missionary activities are fanning Muslim fundamentalism: “They don’t realize that they are creating an impossible atmosphere which, by offending the sensibility of the people, fosters the development of Shiite extremism.”
More generally, the Archbishop is afraid that Iraq’s ongoing problems may lead to trouble for Christians, more or less identified with Westerners and, therefore, with the Americans.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer