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Christian aid workers and Muslim refugees

Christian aid workers and Muslim refugees

The Guardian describes as “insensitive” attempts by Christian aid workers to convert Muslim refugees to Christianity during their detention at an asylum center on the island of Lesbos, also know in English as Lesvos, Greece.

On at least two occasions in recent months, aid workers have distributed conversion forms inside copies of Arabic versions of the St John’s gospel to people held at the Moria detention camp on Lesbos.

The forms, seen by the Guardian, invite asylum seekers to sign a statement declaring the following: “I know I’m a sinner … I ask Jesus to forgive my sins and grant me eternal life. My desire is to love and obey his word.”

Muslim asylum seekers who received the booklet said they found the aid workers’ intervention insensitive.

“It’s a big problem because a lot of the people are Muslim and they have a problem with changing their religion,” said Mohamed, a detainee from Damascus. “They were trying this during Ramadan, the holiest Muslim month.”

The Guardian quotes the director of EuroRelief, a Greek NGO providing much of the day-to-day administration of the Moria camp, responding to the accusations.

Euro Relief’s director, Stefanos Samiotakis, said: “I have already taken action, so that our volunteers know very well that they should not distribute any kind of literature. Our code of conduct … says clearly that this is something they simply cannot do and if somebody does we are going as an organisation [to] take disciplinary actions.”

On its Facebook page, however, the EuroRelief organization took a very different tone. Part of a long post, signed with Samiotakis’ name, reads,

The aim of EuroRelief is to provide humanitarian help for all the people in need, either here on Lesvos island but also anywhere there is a humanitarian crisis.

All of us respect and try to protect the refugees rights and we also try to cover their needs in a difficult environment. As an organization we have provided more than 2.000 volunteers since the beginning of the crisis and served hundrends of thousants of refugees. While though we try though to protect the refugees rights we should clearly identify and protect the aid workers rights. …. Even if sometimes we disagree in some issues, religious political or other we have the right to express our personal opinions freely. And this right is something we should all try to protect.

Some of the refugees come from environments that such rights do not exist. They have not experience religious freedom before. We cannot suppress religious freedom here in Greece to make them feel like home. …

The article of Guardian by Patrick Kingsley is reproducing false accusations by Muslims to Christians that came here in Greece many times on their own expences to work 24/7 in a very difficult environment, dirty, under the sun, sometimes without any water in the camp, without any compensation, to help them, to provide for their needs, just because they love them.

A lawyer’s note on “Aid workers’ rights” is appended to the post. Before that appendix, the concluding comment from Samiotakis reads,

Maybe the next big success of The Guardian and Mr. Kingsley would be the article:
“Radical islamists accuse the X christian for blaspheming prophet Y.”
Is this the Europe we want to have?

Instead of trying to comply with the demands of the refugees we have to show them the way of freedom and democracy and love. When there is freedom and somebody is offering you a John’s gospel, DON’T TAKE IT, IT’S THAT SIMPLE. Don’t accuse somebody for giving you the gospel of john.

You can read the Guardian article, including their quote from the EuroRelief director, here, and EuroRelief’s Facebook response here. Where would you draw the line?

Featured image: EuroRelief on Facebook timeline photo



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Kendrick miller

Prof. Seitz
Thank you for your reply on the Samaritan woman subject. I totally am on your side the to pretend to care causes far more harm then doing nothing. Something has been bothering me about this whole thing I think part of that is due to a misunderstanding of what is accually going on.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

Mr K Miller

Jesus is clear:

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

In Luke’s Gospel, the Samaritans (ultra conservatives claiming religious antiquity from the former N Kingdom) sought to block his movement to Jerusalem for Passover, because it was exactly so predicated.

Jesus did not try to “convert people to Judaism” but equally he did not balk at saying that Judaism was the path he was walking in order to declare its final purpose, as against rival understandings.

He was no ‘every religion is equidistant’ exponent — he died not on Groundhog Day but exactly on Passover, to become the Lamb of God as so declared under signs and figures within Israel’s life with God.

This, his, intimate “life with God” is available to every man and woman under the sun. One can say this to the Muslim with charity and with love and with sacrificial care. To pretend ‘care’ has no denomination could offend the Muslim on the terms of their own religious life.

JoS. S. Laughon

One feels that the call to make disciples of all nations would now be looked at a form of “cultural genocide”

David Allen

Preying on desperate people to win souls for Christ often isn’t true conversion, not if they are making the conversion because they have the mistaken idea that it will prosper them in their need by doing so.

It is yet another form of robbing them of their patrimony.

Gregory Orloff

There’s a big difference between making disciples and making “converts” by trying to cajole them into signing a unbiblical “sinner’s prayer” (Never once mentioned in the Bible, where baptism is the expression of commitment to Christ Jesus!) Perhaps the real trick of “making disciples of all nations” is to make such disciples of ourselves, that people are attracted to our way of life, and actually ask to become Christians because we set such a compelling and inspiring example to follow.

JoS. S. Laughon

I can think of no greater spiritual help than the Gospel. Literally good news. In places like Germany, churches are being filled again with now Christian refugees. God be praised.

Kendrick Miller

Prof. Seitz
What you are saying is true, however it is only part of the story. You and I both know that Jesus was here not to convert people to Judaism but to provide all people the way of salvation. In the account with the Samaritan woman Jesus tells her that He is the Messiah John 4 V 26. In response, she then goes into town and tells the people about Jesus. Because of the woman’s testimony many of them believed on Jesus John 4 V 39. Telling other’s about the Hope that is in us is not turning the New Testament into a personal agenda it is a command from our Savoir 1 Peter 3 V 15. However we have to follow Christ’s example of how we do this and I am truly sorry that many people that proclaim the name “Christian” go about it in a way that is just plain wrong.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

“Funny thing about that Jesus chap: he did good to schismatic Samaritans, pagan Romans, tax-collecting turncoats, idol-worshipping Canaanites, simply out of love — never once saying afterwards, quid pro quo, “So now join my religion…”

— to the Samaritan woman: “we worship what we know. For salvation is from the Jews.”

Let’s try not to turn the NT into our personal agenda.

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