Proselytising in Aceh?

More news about religious tensions in the wake of last year’s Tsunami – The Australian reports from Aceh:

Islamic activists have claimed that aid workers are secretly attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity, pointing particularly to World Vision, Aceh Relief, the International Catholic Mission and Church World Service.


World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said his organisation had a strict policy forbidding proselytisation.

Aceh’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency will begin investigating the allegations next month and, more importantly, probe why the Acehnese are feeling so insecure about Christians in the province.

Fears over Christian proselytism go back to the first weeks following the disaster. The Jamestown Foundation reported at the time that

On January 14 Indonesia’s most influential group of Islamic clerics warned of a widespread Muslim backlash if international aid groups indulged in Christian proselytizing or attempted to adopt orphans to raise in Christian children’s homes. However, more sinister manifestations emerged with evidence of the participation in the relief work by radical Islamist groups, known more for their militant jihadist activities than any humanitarian functions.

Perhaps these Islamist groups have been whipping up resentment against Christian rivals; but it’s also possible that some Christian groups have been engaging in aggressive evangelisation. As I noted on this blog just a few days ago, that is certainly the case in post-Tsunami Thailand, where relief workers associated with Calvary Chapel have been openly boasting of their successes at converting Thai children.

One evangelical organisation that has been present in the area is Iris Ministries. In April its founder, Rolland Baker, wrote about the situation – and was implicitly critical of the softly-softly approach taken by other Christians:

Money, personnel and relief goods poured in. Sympathy skyrocketed. Aid management quickly became a massive challenge. Corruption set in. And Christians were were almost universally advised to keep a low profile and not take advantage of the situation to advance their faith. Heidi and I wanted Iris to be involved with tsunami relief in Aceh, but with so much aid arriving from secular agencies, we felt our main contribution had to spiritual. Still, Christian influence from outsiders was not generally welcome, even by other evangelical workers on the scene.

Many Christians did, of course, come to help in any way they could, and Indonesian believers arrived to comfort and pray with the small Banda Aceh church community that survived. I was delayed by my travel schedule for months. But God has His own plan to raise up fiery preachers of the Gospel who will carry His glory with wisdom and power throughout Indonesia, even into the most tragic and resistant of situations.

Elsewhere, Baker tactfully wrote of a “tsunami of the Holy Spirit”.

(Tipped from Bulldada Newsblog)

3 Responses

  1. Rolland Baker is also linked to John Arnott’s Toronto Area Christian Fellowship aka the “Toronto Blessing.”

  2. […] been using post-Tsunami relief efforts to evangelise is, in my opinion (and as I blogged here and here) ethically somewhat […]

  3. […] The alleged missionizing activities of some foreign relief agencies were discussed by me here. […]

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