Monday, May 25, 2009

The U.S. Military & The Afghan Language Bible Burning Controversy

Some religious groups are hyping an incident from nearly one year ago involving a U.S. serviceman serving in Afghanistan who received Bibles from his church back home that were printed in Pashto and another Afghan language solely to be used for distributing to Afghans. A military chaplain who found out about the Afghan language Bibles distribution plans, informed the serviceman that active duty service-persons in Afghanistan were not allowed to engage in efforts such as proselytizing to promote religion in the devoutly Muslim nation because that presents a security problem that could result in a backlash against American troops and cause riots and needless deaths of American service persons. For security reasons, the small number of Afghan language Bibles were burned by military officials.

Unfortunately the largely antiAmerican Middle-Eastern newservice, Al Jazeera, found out about the effort by the Evangelical soldier to distribute the Bibles and then presented the story how U.S. service-persons are now in Afghanistan in an effort to promote the Christian faith. Fortunately this not incite more needless American deaths, however the story wasn't very helpful. But by the some Christian groups promoting this story, it only tipped off Al Jazeera reporters to carry what would have been a minor private incident on an American military base of a soldier presenting a possible risk to his fellow soldiers where religion is such a highly sensitive issue. Military rules do allow for some voluntary Evangelism which is defined by non-pressured voluntary discussions of faith with Afghan persons. And some argue that by soldiers owning Bibles written in the two main Afghan languages, that they could be used for American service persons to learn the Afghan languages. However, the intent of these Afghan language Bibles appeared to be solely aimed at distribution and religious conversion.

Unfortunately this whole story doesn't end here. The Pray In Jesus Name Project is involved in fundraising activity to distribute more Afghan language Bibles in Afghanistan, regardless of the security and safety risks it may present to the American service persons serving there. And two North Carolina Congressmen, Mike McIntyre(D-NC) and Walter Jones(R-NC) are involved in some effort in Congress to supposedly "defend" the rights of military chaplains, which is really a cover to allow soldiers serving in Afghanistan to engage in efforts to convert them from the Muslim faith to the Christian faith.

The fact of the matter is that private religious organizations are usually free to operate in many nations, and usually use charity work so that they may open schools or churches in foreign lands. These charity groups often bring good works such as clean drinking water, schools or medical clinics to poor nations. However, because of the serious nature of religious tensions in Afghanistan, many organizations such as Catholic Charities are largely involved in resettling Afghan Christian converts in the United States due to security concerns. In some Muslim nations, the police force are actively involved in arresting persons who practice Christian religion.

This whole incident is becoming a showdown for some Christian groups in the U.S. intent on distributing Bibles in a sensitive Muslim war zone in which Muslim moderates are seeking to win over the efforts of the more extreme religious views of the Taliban. And the efforts by a few religious right Congressmen of both political parties also seem intent on allowing potentially dangerous efforts by American service persons to promote the Christian religion as well, possiby undermining the the entire war effort to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, the American effort to build schools and medical clinics is certainly advancing under the Obama Administration. But some in Congress and among some religious groups only want to open the door to further efforts by American service persons to engage in activities meant to convert Afghans to the Christian faith.

My view is that private religious groups and charities have the right to promote aid efforts and other religious activities in Afghanistan. But some others who want U.S. service persons actively involved in promoting religion in Afghanistan probably are seriously endangering both other U.S. service persons as well as the overall mission in Afghanistan. What do you think?


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