Opportunistic evangelizing by Christians in parts of Asia devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami--which killed more than 150,000 people and threatens to take many more lives in epidemics, homelessness and starvation--is creating tension and acrimony.
A group of Christian missionaries in the tiny Hindu village of Samanthapettai, India, reportedly refused aid if victims did not agree to convert to Christianity. The 200 starving survivors in the village, which was virtually wiped out by the tidal wave, were shocked when nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water, according to Yahoo! India News (Jan. 16, 2005). When missionaries saw TV reporters recording the arguments that broke out, they fled the village without unloading food, clothes and medicine.
Everyone from militants believed to be linked to al-Qaida to evangelical Christians has descended on the hardest-hit country, Indonesia, according to a Jan. 13 report by Associated Press.
These people need food but they also need Jesus," claims Wisconsin evangelist Mark Kosinski. "God is trying to awaken people and help them realize that salvation is in Christ."
Indonesia officials nixed plans by WorldHelp, a Virginia ministry, to airlift 300 orphans to a Christian children's home in Jakarta.
Refugee camps "have in some ways become the battleground for religious groups," according to AP.
Many evangelical groups in Asia are there to convert, including Southern Baptists' International Mission Board, Gospel for Asia, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
"This [disaster] is one of the greatest opportunities God has given us to share his love and people," says K.P. Yohannan, with the Texas-based Gospel for Asia, according to a Knight Ridder report on Jan. 10.
Southern Baptist relief coordinator Pat Julian told the Baptist Press news service that the tsunami was "a phenomenal opportunity."
The stated ambition of India Christian Ministries is to design Christian villages of up to 400 homes each, "with a church building in the center of them."
The Protestant Believers Church has distributed bibles on the streets and at refugee camps. It founded an orphanage for 108 children, failing to register it with the government, and instructed them to recite Christian prayers six times a day, according to the Chicago Tribune (Jan. 22, 2005).
The International Bible Society announced plans to distribute 100,000 Christian texts translated into Thai in Thailand.
Focus on the Family placed the text, "When God Doesn't Make Sense," into 300,000 "survival packets," and announced plans to turn destroyed Indian villages into "Christian communities."