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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. pashto.jpg

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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Comments (7)

Tim:

I am 100% against any of our servicemembers proselytizing, no matter what country they happen to be in. It's not their job, and in an area where they're always in uniform, it takes on the appearance of an official duty. Discussions of faith are fine and can be very healthy, but trying to gain converts crosses the line, to me.

I used to work closely with Saudi and Pakistani meteorologists in the Gulf War, and the topic of religion came up quite a bit. The base store and cafeteria usually had pamphlets explaining why we Americans should embrace Islam, but my new friends and I never really tried to sway each other. We thought of it more as a cross-cultural exchange.

JoeS:

It is the Bible and the God of the Bible that gave us Natural Law. Without our Creator, we are not endowed with Certain Unalienable Rights. Liberty and our Constitutional Republic, Abolitionism, Civil Rights Movement and now, the Right to Life, are all based on the Bible.

The Bible is the only religion that allows others the freedom to disagree.

This is the reason these other nations are so tragic, they do not allow any freedom. It is a tragedy that our free women servicemembers have to limit their freedom as they try to spread freedom. My brother lived in Saudi Arabia for three years. Ask his wife.

We need to teach Freedom and the Source of Freedom.

galoob:

I agree with Paul. We don't need Congressmen promoting Christian proselytizing at the possible expense of our troop's lives and the First Amendment, prohibiting the establishment of a state religion.

Chad:

You mean it's ok for other countries to hold on to a state religion as long as it's not christianity. Saudi Arabia and many other muslim countries still hold to the theory that if you are anything other than muslim, they can kill you. It's illegal to have a bible in Saudi Arabia. So what the military has decided to do is to curtail the beliefs of it's christian members in order not to offend people that are already offended. How does that make sense? I don't get the whole proselytizing angle, it doesn't say anything about forced conversions, beheading muslims, or converting anyone, it just says they had bibles printed in the native languages. I'm sorry, but that is not proselytizing. How many people have been in a hotel room with a bible in the night stand? I can see how that would confuse people, but giving out a bible to somebody that asks is not proselytizing. I have a koran at home, did I become a muslim? No. We're dealing with the religion of perpetual outrage in Afghanistan, there will always be something that they don't find acceptable. If it wasn't bibles, it'd be that somebody had the Miss USA pageant on in the barracks and some kid saw a woman in an evening gown with her head uncovered. Do I think the military needs to actively convert muslims to christianity? Never, and Jesus would be totally pissed if they tried. Do they really need to freak out if somebody gives out a few bibles? This should not be that big of a deal, but if it was a muslim chaplain giving out Korans in a christian country, not one word would get said. I've seen that happen, by the way, so don't say it doesn't happen. I really don't think you get the reality of "muslim" countries when you say that this is going to endanger the whole war effort. There will always be something, from "koran flushing", to some kid eating a pork MRE, to a female soldier showing some skin inadvertently, to some soldier saying the wrong thing, to some Danish paper running some cartoons. There's just no way around it, unless you want to convert our whole military to a muslim organization......oh, wait, they kill each other over different kinds of that, too.

Lee Ward:

"You mean it's ok for other countries to hold on to a state religion as long as it's not christianity. "

Back before the republicans ran our country into the ground we were better than those backwards, third-world nations.

Bush and his band of Crusading Cretins reduced us to the third-world level, resorting to torture and religious jihads against nations that had NOTHING to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks - but who happened to be non-Christian practitioners.

Tim:

Leave it to Lee to make this into an attack on Bush. You really need to take a breath, and just shut the fuck up for once. It's not about Bush. It's not even about 9/11, although I find it odd that you think Afghanistan is unrelated to 9/11. I thought Afghanistan was the GOOD war, while Iraq was unneccessary and probably evil, to boot. So go ahead, Lee, and explain to us how Afghanistan (where this story comes from) is totally unrelated to 9/11. I guess there were no 17 year old girls to attack this week.

Chad:

So Lee, you think america has a state religion that kills people for possessing what religious book? And once again, how was it that Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11, and islamic terrorism? How was it that Iraq had nothing to do with supporting terrorism? Saddam Hussein was paying a bounty to the families of "martyrs" that were striking civilian targets. Iraq was also in violation of UN mandates and international treaties. We were the responsible authority to uphold those mandates and treaties. I hate to break it to you Lee, but you can choose to practice whatever religion you want in this country, so long as you don't use force to convert others. So you're trying to say that President Bush was cutting off people's heads that aren't christians? Is that the myth you're trying to propogate here?


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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