Two days ago ten members of a Christian medical team were killed in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying that the volunteers were trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.
The medical team was organized by the NGO International Assistance Mission. IAM is a signatory to a Red Cross/Red Crescent code of conduct which, among other things, includes a pledge that “Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious standpoint.” In other words, IAM pledges not to proselytize.
I can understand why it might be difficult to trust that promise. And I also can see how easy it would be for the Taliban to capitalize on that mistrust.
I’ve been thinking about world religions lately, recognizing that when I interview with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, I will need to know more than I know now. So when I was in our local used book store a few weeks ago, and saw a paperback copy of Reza Aslan’s No God but God in the new arrivals section, I snapped it up. I also decided to take a trip down the world religions aisle.
In the Islam section of that aisle, one title in particular stood out. There were about six copies, all brand new, of Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs. Further investigation confirmed what I suspected–that this book should have been shelved with Christian apologetics.
When I was in college, belonging to a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was an important part of my journey out of fundamentalism. One year I went to IVCF’s Global Missions Conference, Urbana, where I remember learning how to be a missionary in the 10-40 window, and specifically how to work covertly within Muslim countries where proselytizing is illegal. A quick trip to IVCF’s page about Urbana showed me that this is still something IVCF is doing.
Christian missionaries who go into Muslim countries as undercover evangelists probably think long and hard about the personal risks they are taking, and they probably call it “counting the cost.” But I wonder if their accounting considers the risks their choices create for others. I wonder if they realize how their covert evangelism erodes trust, breeds suspicion, and endangers those whose mission is simply mercy, and not conversion.