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“Scores of Muslim radicals” Baptised by Dutch Evangelist?

Here’s something you don’t see every day, from BosNewsLife:

The founder of the Netherlands-based missionary organization Open Doors has confirmed that he baptized “scores of Muslim radicals” and he challenges other Christians to follow in his footsteps.

The missionary is the 79-year-old Dutchman Anne van der Bijl, a.k.a “Brother Andrew”, the founder of Open Doors:

Despite concerns about growing pressure on Christians in Islamic countries such as Afghanistan, Brother Andrew said he preached the love of Jesus Christ to militant groups such as the Taliban and Hamas, as well as to Muslim clerics in Iran.

He added that he was recently invited to appear on national television in Iran, and has visited Pakistan and Afghanistan, where a Taliban leader allegedly told him he’s welcome back at any time.

“Brother Andrew” is actually an interesting character, and he became a household name among evangelicals in the 1960s due to his efforts at smuggling Bibles into communist countries. Thanks to various ghost-writers, it has not always been completely clear where he himself is coming from: God’s Smuggler (1967), by the Pentecostals John and Elizabeth Sherrill, presents a spiritual man primarily concerned with spreading the gospel; Battle for Africa (1977), ghosted by Amway-enthusiast Charles Paul Conn, gives us a more hardboiled anti-communist crusader, who urges support for Rhodesia and South Africa. A 1990 essay by journalist Lawrence Jones suggested that Conn’s picture was closer to the truth:

Open Doors, a stridently anti-Communist ministry based in The Netherlands, published a comic book in both English and Afrikaans, which is distributed through the chaplain general’s office to all the troops .The comic book portrays the struggle between “democracy” and “communism” as the final contest between Christ and Antichrist.

The founder of Open Doors…calls himself Brother Andrew…In a recent speech to the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, an American evangelical organization, Brother Andrew claimed that there’s a direct relationship between Israel and South Africa. The two nations were united in an end-times scenario. (1)

That would appear to put him firmly in the religious-right camp, but, surprisingly, in the 1990s he hooked up with Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding and with Donald Wagner, a prominent critic of Christian Zionism. The two of them visited the West Bank to investigate claims that Palestinian Christians were being persecuted by the Palestinian Authority, and came away with a report suggesting that the accusations were inaccurate, and had been orchestrated by the Israeli government and the Christian Embassy (which is not, by the way, “American”).

A more recent visit by Brother Andrew to Gaza was reported in the Christian Post in June:

While looting, sporadic violence, and instability still plague the newly Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a Christian persecution group hopes that a long-established friendship between it and Hamas will keep the small Christian community relatively safe from targeted attacks.

…Brother Andrew had built a relationship spanning over a decade with Hamas leaders. In December 1992, over a thousand Hamas leaders were deported from Israel and left on the side of a mountain in Lebanon. Brother Andrew had flew in and visited the Hamas camp in a humanitarian way and gave Bibles and his book “God’s Smuggler” to them, who in turn invited Brother Andrew into their tent for a meal.

When the Hamas leaders later were able to return to their countries, Brother Andrew in turn hosted meals for Hamas leaders where he would testify about the Gospel. The two built a friendship where they would mutually challenge each others religious beliefs but would do would do so with respect.

The new BosNewsLife report also contains a tactful reference to the South Korean missionaries who were kidnapped in Afghanistan:

…he cautioned that “a little more wisdom would be helpful”…

(1) “Divided Evangelicals in South Africa”, in Emile F. Sahliyeh, Religious Resurgence and Politics in the Contemporary World, p. 112.

One Response

  1. […] convert the militants, one wonders how effective his advocacy for Palestinian Christians could be (I blogged on Open Doors just a few days ago). In August, things were looking more dodgy, when Sana al-Sayegh, […]

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