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May 19, 2009

How to Evangelize in Afghanistan

Karzai.jpg

President Obama has pledged to make the war in Afghanistan a top foreign policy priority. He has maintained strong relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (inset photo) and spoke out in favor of winning the conflict there.

But the military strategy, just like the Bush administration, has come to dominate the American response from keeping the Karzai regime in power to fighting the Taliban.

From an evangelical point of view, the Obama administration goals do not seamlessly match up with gospel priorities. The situation is complicated significantly by the number of evangelicals in the Armed Services in Afghanistan and many of them are commited to spreading the gospel.

Note this recent article from Al Jazeera English language service:

US soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan's predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show.

Military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram were also filmed with bibles printed in the country's main Pashto and Dari languages.

In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him".

"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.

"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."

Here is the You Tube/Al Jazeera segment:

This entanglement of fervent faith and lethal military might sure looks like a potentially dangerous combination to me. What do you think?

This kind of effort touches on a wide collection of missiological issues. Certainly, Christians worldwide endorse the place of military chaplains and the universal right of people to spread their faith.

However, the US military mission gets intermingled with the freedom of religious expression and outreach. On the receiving end in Afghanistan, I imagine this is pretty confusing for Muslims.


Comments

A dangerous combination, indeed...and likely increases the danger for our servicemen, as Afghans come to see Americans as possibly careless, calloused, arrogant religious bigots contemptuous of Afghan's personal integrity, customs and traditions.

Granted, "arrogant religious bigots contemptuous of other people's personal integrity" also sounds like some Islamics, but...didn't their mothers ever tell them that just because all the other boys are jumping off a cliff, that doesn't mean that you should as well.

The mix is intolerable. Although the current article in Harper's Weekly is agressive, it accurately points up the problems. The Parachurch ministries have not been circumspect and like all wars, it is imperative not to undermine the very freedoms we are defending. Protestant and Catholic Christianity are emphatic about the requirement of religious liberty. Any military person using their official capacity to communicate the gospel violates the biblical requirement of non-coercion and an unmixed message. The combination of the gospel with anything else to motivate the decision of faith constitutes an fundamental undermining of that decision.

Some questions: Are the people who are singing and praying in this video "arrogant religious bigots contemptuous of other people's personal integrity" or are they simply trying to give Afghani people spiritual options from which they can freely choose their religious preferences? Who of us commenting on this article has enough direct insight into the minds of these soldiers to accurately interpret their attitudes and motivations? Is there any real evidence here that Muslim people's "personal integrity" is being violated? Since when is it a violation of personal integrity to offer people good news about Jesus? How, exactly, is giving Bibles to people in their own languages undermining "the very freedoms we are defending?" Aren’t freedom of religion and freedom of thought included in those freedoms we are defending? What's so confusing to Muslims about being told their strength is admired and they're being prayed for? Are Muslim's really that easily confused? Isn't assuming they are a bit condescending? And since when is it wrong to "mix" our faith with our career paths? Are soldiers in Afghanistan always on government duty, or are they ever able to exercise the personal freedom of sharing their faith with Afghanis on their own time? What's really intolerable here? Is it the gentle, loving sharing of the good news about Jesus with Muslims by soldiers? Or is it the harsh, vindictive criticism of those soldiers by their "Christian" brothers and sisters? How would Jesus answer that question, I wonder? And is He, perhaps, the only One with answers to all of these questions?

Unlike most other religious beliefs, Christianity is an idea. Planting that 'idea' in the minds of Afghans who are, theoretically, powerless to 'object' is not the same as sexual harassment. I say 'theoretically powerless' because the US soldier has just finished liberating the country from another kind of 'idea' that is now ravaging neighbouring Pakistan. If the US left today, the Taliban would return tomorrow. Christian lawyers would probably like to see the country return to mullahcracy but I somehow doubt Afghans share that attitude. In this context, the American soldier is a liberating rather than occupying force. He has seen his close friends give their lives to protect Afghanistan from religious intolerance. Perhaps he has earned the right to prosletyze.
To elaborate on Ginny's remarks, true Christianity is not vengeful or coercive. The Afghan who hears the Word and rejects Christ will certainly not be hounded and harassed. He will continue to be treated with love and compassion--that's the Christian way.

Al Jazeera is an Islamic media that brags about and shows captive American soldiers' heads being chopped off. Who gives a damn that they don't like the spreading of Jesus' word by anybody since they follow their law that converting by anybody else but them is illegal. They are using English words to throw in our faces to define freedom which is a laugh, because the freedom they know is the beating of 17 year old girls who walk outside their homes without a man with them. I'll bet that 17 year old girl would have loved to have a Chrittian soldier show up to stop her beating. This ugly culture was dreamed up by a sex pervert who couldn't read who was into having many wives and slave girls at his disposal for sex. This sick culture needs to be destroyed by the word of Jesus and since the only people who can spread the word are soldiers because Christian civilians are kidnapped and killed or "encouraged" to leave the country and Christian organizations are being shut down, that leaves the soldiers, and, their first calling is to Jesus, the GPO comes 2nd believe or not.

I have read your article, I think very popular with this article.

Yes, I've been seeing reports of this and didn't know what to make of them. I'm torn. For a long time Christianity has been tarred, fairly and unfairly, with the brushes of colonialism, coercion, and imperialism. Whatever these U.S. soldiers were doing and however they were doing it, this episode cannot help with these issues. (Nor can it help American strategic interests there.)

But the real coercion going on in Afghanistan is the spiritual and religious bondage the Afghan people face on a daily basis. They are not allowed to exercise their God-given right to religious freedom, on pain of death. May these dear people created in God's image find freedom in Christ.

As a military member who has served in Afghanistan I feel I have a place to speak in this. Regarding the statement that American soldiers are seen as occupiers and brutal, let me answer in the words of an Afghan citizen himself, spoken unsolicited and completely unexpectedly. His comment to me was the Afghanis are consistently amazed by the compassion of the average American soldier, especially towards children, and that this is something his people who have often had foreign armies among them have never seen or experienced before. A second comment, again unsolicited and unexpected. A truck driver sought out a private moment and asked one of the convoy escorts if he were a Christian. Having been answered in the affirmative, he responded "That is good. That is very, very good. I would be also, but they would kill me." The Islamic mindset seems clear, freedom of conscience is denied, both spiritually and politically across virtually the whole of the Islamic world. Having been there and having a Bachelor's in European-Asian history to provide long-term perspective, it seems very clear to me that until spiritual freedom in Christ is experienced in that region, personal and political freedom will be denied as well. We do the Afghanis no service by denying that reality.

Good comments since I was here last. Thank you, Christian Lawyer, for your well spoken explanation of the need for soldiers to be circumspect in how they share (or don't share) their faith. I appreciate the tactfulness of your resonse to me. I know you're right. I just feel sad that things have to be this way. Reminds me of the times of the Roman Empire, when it was extremely difficult to be a Christian and a good Roman soldier at the same time. We need to get used to this situation though. Times have changed. Even only 30 years ago, when Christianity was considered a blessing to the world by Americans, this would not have been such an issue. I do still feel we need to be careful how we characterize the soldiers who are in this difficult position though. The name calling is out of order. It's good to know that real Afghans have a different slant on where real Christian soldiers are coming from. We need to pray that this negative publicity will work to God's glory and not against it. And we need to pray for wisdom and courage for our troups as they fight both a physical and a spiritual battle. And we all fight the spiritual battle. Need to remember that.

Thanks, Bakatya!

Please consider the ramifications of the following: 1. Evangelicals are highly visible in the ranks of enlisted men and officers in Afghanistan and many of them are “spreading the gospel”. 2. We continue to occupy their country and kill innocent civilians. How do we evangelize Afghanistan? Simple-we immediately leave their country and limit our involvement to humanitarian aid. If you truly want to evangelize in the muslim world: repudiate Islamo-fascist war on terror rhetoric in our churches and form a highly visible evangelical movement calling for the removal of all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and publically repent for previous support of our nation’s activities there.

Your very welcome Ginny.

To John, I worry that a unilateral withdrawl from Afghanistan would bring a return to an era of subjgation of women, persecution of the educated and overall chaos. I also believe if we left Pakistan would further destabilize with ramifications to India.

To send humanitarian aid in with no military security would be disastrous. I am thinking along the lines of Somalia.

On your request for the Church to stop commenting on Islamo-Facsism, a good church can not cease to speak the Gospel and must continue to preach Jesus as in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". The Bible does not give us the option to not critique other religions and nor does it give us a pass on speaking truth depending on our work. Because a person may have a uniform on does not make him a non-Christian.

What the answer is I do not know, but whatever we do we must act with love and kindness.

Yeah - it's a touchy issue.
On a comical note: since some Muslim women have married and converted a number of servicemen in Iraq, it seems only fair the proselytizing should go both ways.
Really, though, the best way for most military men to witness Christ is to do what John the Baptist asked of Roman soldiers: don't exploit the people. Do you job justly as you can, love the people, and preach the gospel chiefly when you're invited to, not just because they don't have a choice but to listen. Do good, then folks will glorify God, so says the Bible, and servicemen would do well to remember it.

Bakatya, What self-respecting person would want to listen to, let alone accept, a gospel message that is so closely associated with the occupying army that controls predator drone aircraft that kills innocent people along with the "terrorists". Also, "commenting on Islamo-Facsism" is not the same as speaking the gospel. Generally speaking we associate the gospel with the truth and Islamo-fascist/long holy war on terror nonsense is just a bunch of hateful rhetoric spread by Fox News and "christian" radio to drum up support for illegal wars and the military industrial complex.


I appreciate this dialogue, except where it becomes name-calling. No one has yet responded to Brian's comments - who has been there and met Afghanis. I am pleased that Afghanis meet some honorable people in the Armed Forces. But I also understand that lobbing highly destructive missles, rockets, and mortars from unseen locations to remotely observed locations results in death and misery for too many innocent people. The U.S. forces, and the international military presence can be a balwark against anarchy, but kindness one day, and numbing cruelty the next, is going to be confusing and terrifying for any population.

The liberation that comes with knowing God through Jesus is Top Priority for Christians. But that isn't limited to the streets and villages of Afghanistan. We need it just as badly in the U.S. Here the Enemy is more discreet, but probably more dangerous to Christians for that.
The message of Love must go to all people, even the guy next door.

John, thank you for your response.

First, your question of "What self-respecting person would want to listen to, let alone accept, a gospel message that is so closely associated with the occupying army that controls predator drone aircraft that kills innocent people along with the "terrorists". I will combine your question with Just a Kingdom Dudes question. Brian has served in Afghanistan and presents a much different picture than you. He tells of an Afghani man listening to him and speaking about Christianity. Perhaps the Afghani man is not self-respecting, Brian did not say. Some people actually value protectors.

Second, your statement ""commenting on Islamo-Facsism" is not the same as speaking the gospel" I would have to respectfully disagree. Christians are called to spread the truth of the Gospel and must speak against false doctrine. From CNN: "Islam is also the fastest-growing religion. In the United States, for example, nearly 80 percent of the more than 1,200 mosques have been built in the past 12 years". From watching the news (Fox or otherwise) I do not believe in the concept of "Terror nonsense". The Washington Post, the New York Times and many others report on terrorist attacks.

I am sorry, but I have to speak out against Islam as a Christian, 2 Peter 2:1 reads "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord".

My apologies for not being more clear but I am not a well trained writer. As an end thought, I still worry what a military withdrawl would bring to the vulnerable of Afghanistan, let alone what would happen to humanitarian workers that would be left on their own with the Taliban in power.

Bakatya, I supppose if you were born and raised in a muslem country you would feel compelled to speak out against the christians. A little humility about not knowing the true answers to everything would be in order. As to Brian presenting a much different viewpoint than mine: we need to consider all the facts and get our information from a variety of sources. Admittedly, it takes some effort to do this. It's always easier just to believe our nation always does the right thing and we are spreading democracy and punishing the evil doers and those who say otherwise are just american hating "liberals". There is a word for this Jingoism.

My multicultural self went to college in the Bible Belt in the Seventies, Ginny...so I have a lot of personal experience with arrogant religious bigots who don't respect personal integrity.

But, personal experience is always to be suspected. However, I recently read an article in Harpers about religion privilege substituting for white privilege in the military. As a veteran myself, that was quite interesting. When I was in, the John Birch Society was running amok...even to having their nasty, conspiracy theory propaganda stuffed into commissary bags.

So, while that was a good while ago, I'm not surprised that the religious right is undermining military discipline and American's highest ideals and values...ideals they've never all that much respected in the first place.

religious right undermining military discipline? i thought only gays in the military could do that :-)

People are so easily frightened at the speed of the spread of Islam. It is not to be feared. It is a symptom of the failure of the Church in Europe and Asia Minor to address the spiritual hunger and thirst by adapting gladly to a secularism that makes everyone more "comfortable". The Gospel can easily take root in ground that others till.

In the U.S., "Patriotism", Consumerism, and Militarism have been too deeply entwined with faith that we have levels of sin now. Holiness is not embraced, not by 'normal' people. Faithfulness isn't easy (why couldn't He make it easy? or at least give us a discount?) Look and see: idolatry is more at home in the American home than discipleship.

I believe more in giving account knowledgeably about what we believe than in picking fights. We must be very careful to remember that even those who do not share our faith are people, not demons, and that God sent His only Begotten to this world for all persons to know there's hope for salvation, through Jesus alone.

True that justakindom dude. i like your post

Brian, let me commend to you the instructions that Jesus gave his disciples as he sent them throughout Galilee to spread the word of the Kingdom of God. It concers their manner of dress--nothing about bullet-proof vests--their basic equipment--nothing about daggers, swords, rifles, etc.--and how to respond when they are now initially received well with their message--i.e., leave promptly without any retaliation.

So, Brian, if you advocate evangelizing the citizens of Afghanistan, you should get out of the military, lay aside all of your arms and protective gear and go on your own--clearly identifying yourself as spreading the work of the coming Kingdom of God (Allah).

re: Just a Kingdom Dude, "the spread of Islam... is a symptom of... the Church in Europe and Asia Minor... adapting gladly to a secularism that makes everyone more 'comfortable'"
Two critiques of that statement:
First, using "secularism" in that way is anachronistic, reading present notions into the past that weren't there. Asia Minor and parts of Europe (the old Byzantine Empire) became largely Muslim because they were militarily defeated by the Ottoman Empire and forced to convert, not because they were secularist - indeed, the Byzantines were Eastern Orthodox, more to be criticized for religious intolerance than secularism.
Second, today Islam is rising in Europe mostly because the indigenous populations are committing demographic suicide (birthrate is unable to sustain population levels) and immigrants filling in the population gap come from their former colonial empires and are largely Muslim. So the rise of Islam in contemporary Europe has more to do with demographics than significant conversion. Indeed, France's secularist establishment is not comfortable with the rise of Islam, and shows it by suppressing the wearing of headscarves in schools, a basic expression of a woman's Muslim identity.

My christian and jewish brothers; judism, christianity and islam are actually sister religions. We muslims called this religions as the samawi religions or the religions of the sky. We muslims belive in all prophets of god right from Adam to Mohamed thus including Jesus PBUH, Moses PBUH, David PBUH, John PBUH and others. As muslim we are required to believe in all the prophets and to not believe in either one will not make me a true muslim. This include Jesus PBUH or in islam we dearly refered to him as Isa a.s. (alaisalam). Jesus to us is one of the greatest prophet whose birth was miraculously different from others as he was born to our blessed Maryam (Mary) without a father. Jesus spoke from his cradle in defense of his mother (blessed Maryam)to his people when she brought him back to the village.
We muslims loved Jesus so much that we told our children about him and his blessed mother Maryam (Mary). Even in our holy Quran, the chapters are abound with Jesus PBUH, his miracles and a special chapter is solely devoted to our blessed Maryam (Mary). Nothing much is said about our Prophet Mohamed's mother in the Quran. The only thing we (muslims) differ from our christian brothers is that we muslims believed that Jesus PBUH did not die on the cross but was taken up to the sky and live there till Jesus PBUH will come back down to earth to rule and establish the"kingdom of god" and will be assisted by imam mahadi. Together Jesus PBUH will bring peace and harmony for 40 years. I say this to y christian brothers & sisters, please do not try to convert us as we also belived and loved Jesus PBUH and his blessed mother Maryam.

Dear Shukour,
Naming christians as brothers is very kind of you. I wonder why Brian's afghan fellow told him that he would be KILLED if he become christian? Talking about the similarity of the 'sister religions' is soo PC, but IMO this tolerance is just on the rhetoric level: Could I establish a church in Afghanistan as you can build a mosques in the EU? In a muslim country like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan could I boldly proclaim that I'm redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God? That Jesus loves me so much he died for my sins, I belong to Him, and live my life in God's grace? Is that not a heresy in muslim world that 'deserve' death sentence... because it is the very core of Christianity.
Airstrikes in urban terrain is a huge strategic mistake (no, actually it is a sin), this is the main concern, not the gift Bibles.

Kim Clement/School of The Prophet, The Teachings of Kim Clement

Revelation
In this new teaching series, Kim will instruct his students on one of the keys to hearing God's voice-Revelation. In the first teaching series. Kim dealt with perception and now he will unfold the secretto understanding God's will for the present time.

From the modern day prophet, this course will consist of an 8 week period. Each week, Dr. Clement will unlock the secrets to recieving and unfolding revelations for your life, the church and the Nations of the world. He will also teach some of the truths hidden in the Book of Revelation and provide a simple understanding of some of those writings. "Revelations for the modern day believer" will not only educate and inspire you but will give you the understanding of how God loves to communicate to His people albeit cryptic.

http://www.kimclementschool.org/school.php

This is Christianity Today????
This article and the video were more anti Christian than they were Christian. I was contacted today by a person desiring Asylum from Afghanistan stating that they had become a Christian in the past several years and that this is illegal in Afghanistan. the person wants to leave the country legally and states they do not want any money or resources only the chance to go anywhere else but there. They shared that a person had found out that they were a christian and has been blackmailing the person for their silence. They sent the email to me because our ministry has a web page that provides my email address. The letter was sent to me and a handful of other ministries I assume they also found online. This is why I came to this page. I was looking for more information. Before this page I found several others describing how Christians were tried and executed for no other reason than the fact that they were Christians. I do not know how I can help this person but I do want to find out.

If Christians in the military do not share their faith with the Afghan people how else will they hear?

Why are we working with a government that puts Christians to death simply because they are Christians?

What makes the Afghanistan Government any better than the terrorist we are at war with, do they not both seek-out to silence and kill Christians?

Why would "Christianity Today" have articles that are so clearly anti christian?

The more I learn the less I understand. What has happened to make so many so cold and indifferent to the suffering of the innocent and how much longer will it be permitted to continue?

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Kim Clement/School of The Prophet, The Teachings of Kim Clement

Revelation
In this new teaching series, Kim will instruct his students on one of the keys to hearing God's voice-Revelation. In the first teaching series. Kim dealt with perception and now he will unfold the secretto understanding God's will for the present time.

From the modern day prophet, this course will consist of an 8 week period. Each week, Dr. Clement will unlock the secrets to recieving and unfolding revelations for your life, the church and the Nations of the world. He will also teach some of the truths hidden in the Book of Revelation and provide a simple understanding of some of those writings. "Revelations for the modern day believer" will not only educate and inspire you but will give you the understanding of how God loves to communicate to His people albeit cryptic.

http://www.kimclementschool.org/school.php

He too, loved his 2nd wife. She is a very considerate person,
always patient and in fact is the merchant’s confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems,
he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.