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February 9, 2005 11:13 PM   Subscribe

Is this what they are doing with my tsunami relief donations? From the article: "Jubilant at seeing the relief trucks loaded with food, clothes and the much-needed medicines the villagers, many of who have not had a square meal in days, were shocked when the nuns asked them to convert before distributing biscuits and water." Christopher Hitchens also exposes similiar actions in India by Christian missionaries in his book critical of Mother Theresa.
posted by skallas (59 comments total)

 
Augh... that is disgusting. It looks as though it's an isolated incident, though. I hope so.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:30 PM on February 9, 2005


See also this article, ironically from the Christian Science Monitor. (yes, I am aware of the independence in the news department there)

Bizarrely the only recent US coverage appears to be from the Dayton Daily News (use Bugmenot).
posted by calwatch at 11:32 PM on February 9, 2005


Like to see them try that in Aceh.

(Having said that, it possibly isn't a wise thing to try in some parts of India, either.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:36 PM on February 9, 2005


Probably just a few bad apples. Fraternity hijinks. Certainly not condoned by the people at the top.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:37 PM on February 9, 2005


No wonder there was a warning against missionary work in relief efforts. All things considered, these people should realize a few things. Anyone willing to convert for food isn't going to be much of a convert, and anyone who is going to be truly faithful to their religion isn't going to convert for any mortal reason.

It's disgusting, really. What kind of outcry would there be here if there were a disaster of epic proportions, and the only relief effort available to a town insisted on conversion to another religion? I want to hear from Christians on how they feel about this, this can't be that widely condoned, now can it?
posted by Saydur at 11:42 PM on February 9, 2005


You know I was wondering about the tsunami and all the Christian missionaries swarming over SE Asia right now when fark erupted into a religious flamewar over some photographs of snowflakes.(not kidding)

I mean why would a loving, nice god cause hundreds of thousands of people to die like that? It isn't like terrorism where you can say something like “god gave us free will, and that means you can make bad choices, bla bla bla”).

I mean in this case, it was just a big title wave. Shouldn't that shake their faith?

And then I realized, a lot of these people probably believe god did this in order for them to have an opportunity to proselytize. I mean, I'm sure there are many who simply want to help, but to try to convert people, it's so unbelievably selfish. .
posted by delmoi at 11:48 PM on February 9, 2005


Wow, that peope in the CS monitor article are fucking shameless:
"There's a power imbalance when people are in dire need," he adds. "When others offer aid and ask, 'By the way, do you know why this happened to you? There's a better way,' it becomes a delicate power struggle."
Why this happened to you? They are impling the tectonic shifts are really punishment from the Christian god because these people are non-christians. This is sickening.

The real problem, as usual, is you can't trust faith-based organizations because they will always have ulterior motives. Its about time the red cross, the salvation army, et all were torn down and replaced with secular organizations who really do want to help others for other reasons than conversion.
posted by skallas at 11:49 PM on February 9, 2005


Wow, just wow. I have this picture of some prim holier than thou Bible humper, I mean thumper, holding a bowl of food away from a starving mother and trying to hand her the Bible instead.

I thought the child sex ring traders were disgusting but this is equally, if not more, disgusting.

If it were the old days, I'd hope the villagers killed the damned missionaries and ate them.
posted by fenriq at 11:49 PM on February 9, 2005



Temporary thread hijack:

When searching for links to the Staines family being burnt alive, I stumbled across a rather tasteless (but genuine) jpeg on this site.

Oh, and his wife wrote a book about the incident called Burnt Alive. Good heavens.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:52 PM on February 9, 2005


I can believe this would happen, but I'm still a little skeptical about this story. It showed up on Jan 16th, and hasn't propagated, and yet :

"The missionaries, who rushed into their cars on seeing television reporters and the cameras refusing to comment on the incident and managed to leave the village."

Where are the photos or video of these missionaries rushing to their cars and leaving?
You mean none of these reporters aired any media related to an outrageous story like this?
posted by 2sheets at 11:53 PM on February 9, 2005


The real problem, as usual, is you can't trust faith-based organizations because they will always have ulterior motives.

Thread over.
posted by Dean Keaton at 11:57 PM on February 9, 2005


As part of my Catholic grade school1 graduation requirement I had to complete 10 hours (I think... it's been awhile) of community service. I ended up working way more than that down at the Catholic soup kitchen. It was run by a dozen or so nuns of the Missionaries Of Charity (Mother Teresa's order), and I don't ever remember us turning people away because they weren't Christian. The only religious thing about the whole event was the short prayer at the beginning.

The nuns who required conversion should be reprimanded. That's not how we do things. Catholics of all people should know better.

1: St. Vincent de Paul, Peoria IL
posted by sbutler at 12:00 AM on February 10, 2005


Who Would Jesus Starve?

To be fair, this is theologically correct and the nuns are no less than good Christians following their Savior; Jesus preached first and fed after, too.

I take my reading from the book of Mark, Chapter 6, verses 34 to 44:
"34": And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
"35": And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
. . . .
"41": And when [Jesus] had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
. . . .
"44": And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
Let's face it: to a Christian, saving the villagers' immortal souls has to take precendence over filling their mortal bellies. Maybe that's why I'm not a Christian.
posted by orthogonality at 12:09 AM on February 10, 2005


The real problem, as usual, is you can't trust faith-based organizations because they will always have ulterior motives.

Thread over.


Nor Presidents who believe they are the be-all to the save-all.
posted by fenriq at 12:10 AM on February 10, 2005


The real problem, as usual, is you can't trust faith-based organizations because they will always have ulterior motives.

Thread over.

Nor Presidents who believe they are the be-all to the save-all.


Nor people who will read ulterior motives into any act, no matter what it may be.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 12:14 AM on February 10, 2005


thedevildancedlightly mentions "people who will read ulterior motives into any act, no matter what it may be."

Those people are properly called "realists".

"From such a face and form as mine the noblest sentiments sound like the black utterances of a depraved imagination. It is human nature -- I am resigned."
posted by orthogonality at 12:20 AM on February 10, 2005


Damn, I hate it when I get my realism in my tsunami relief effort.

devildancedlightly, part of any faith-based organization or any organization really is recruitment. Without new members the organization dies. Faith-based relief organizations distribute Bibles and religious materials as part of their mission. I'd prefer they didn't but that's not my decision, they're helping people and, hopefully, offering a new way of looking at things (and not ramming it into their heads or holding carrots out for them while they sign prayer hymns).

There are acts I don't read ulterior motives into, plenty of them everyday. My dog's wagging tail isn't her secretly playing me to get me to give her some food, she actually likes me. My son's smile of recognition upon seeing me isn't because he knows I'll give him anything he needs, its because he remembers and likes me.

But highly organized religious entities with massive pockets and a mission (they call them missionaries for a reason) to convert the stupid people who believe in some God with eight arms, the fools!, they do bother me and I do think they are acting with two different intentions. Missionaries bother me because they have to believe they are on the one true path or the whole illusion dissolves around them. The part about spreading that illusion to everyone they come in contact with just bothers the hell out of me.
posted by fenriq at 1:03 AM on February 10, 2005


Damn. Great pickup, 2sheets.

I'm now awaiting the troupe of howler monkeys asking "why are we wasting our time" picking holes in the story when we just know it's happening?

A bit like this thread.

(And many other threads that fit their political agenda where analysis is to be avoided at all costs.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:10 AM on February 10, 2005


I am not a Christian. This, if true, is sick.

I attended Catholic parochial and high schools. All the priests (Basilian) I encountered were good men who made clear that adherence to basics of the faith (be a gentleman, do unto others…, be gentle and kind) came before spreading the word. The subject of conversion never came up.

It was made clear to us that we would do right by others because it was right, not because we wanted to score points, or attract others. The act is it’s own reward.

My aunt, who for some years was Mother Superior to The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sault Ste. Marie, diocese will, I’ll bet, be mightily offended by this.
posted by arse_hat at 1:37 AM on February 10, 2005


I recall nothing about the Good Samaritain needing proof of conversion before offering aid. "Sing and pray for your bandages!"
posted by DrDoberman at 2:21 AM on February 10, 2005


fenriq - I agree fully on the faith-based organization recruiting. ANY organization has a strong interest in self-preservation (from religious relief to Greenpeace to the NAACP). I was just questioning the tie-back to Bush.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:23 AM on February 10, 2005


skallas: I agree that this is awful, but I don't see how the Red Cross fits into all of this. They don't allow missionary work, I think, and they have a sister organization, the Red Crescent, that works in muslim areas.
posted by svenni at 2:29 AM on February 10, 2005


Hmm found this, could be interesting

looks like Tsunami has reached peak awareness this looks like some kind of graph that has been mapping the number of results in google/yahoo for "tsunami" as the search phrase since early january, spooky.
posted by leighm at 2:30 AM on February 10, 2005


a group of Christian missionaries

Couldn't they even specify which group? Exactly what was the plan? You stand still and we'll sprinkle you with holy water then you get the bottled stuff. Can you do conversions like this on the fly while holding out food to starving people?

I'm not a big fan of christianity but this seems a bit ridiculous. There will be people that benefit from stirring up this kind of shit - rivalries among village leaders, reporters, etc. I find the story too lacking in detail to be credible.
posted by missbossy at 5:26 AM on February 10, 2005


My family lives in NE India and this is understood to be SOP for the Christian missionaries working with tribals. The Christians demand conversion and the tribals often pretend to comply in order to receive food or other goods.

In the parts of India that I saw, this created a great deal of anger. Its not at all surprising to me that this is being reported in India and not in the US.
posted by rks404 at 5:39 AM on February 10, 2005


I'm sorry, but this is utter crap. I've worked with several religious charities, and I've never heard of anyone doing this. Combine this with the fact that there are no pictures or evidence, and that the only people who are witnesses are part of an anti-Christian culture, and you have a non-story.
posted by unreason at 5:50 AM on February 10, 2005


In this case yes it appears to be Catholic missions causing the problems, but I ask most folks to take a look at who does most of attempts at conversion.
I agree that it is sick that Christians would do such a thing, but one should remember that some sects of Christianity teach conversion as one of the major themes of their beliefs. Catholics generally don't belive in the need to "go out and convert the heathens". Most Catholic charity workers that I know (and I do know more than a few), believe in doing good works first and that by example they might get people more interested in the Catholic teachings, but they all to a person agree that any attempt in forcing conversion is counterproductive at best and quite dangerous in some areas.
posted by Numenorian at 6:00 AM on February 10, 2005


The real problem, as usual, is you can't trust faith-based organizations because they will always have ulterior motives. Its about time the red cross, the salvation army, et all were torn down and replaced with secular organizations who really do want to help others for other reasons than conversion.

This post is so lame. So agenda filter. Look, I am as atheist as the next monkey, but lumping the red cross, salvation army, etc. in with a story about friggin missionaries from a Yahoo news story is just fucking ridiculous. Yeah, that is where you're money is going.
God Damn this bugged me.
posted by repoman at 6:02 AM on February 10, 2005


A real story would have either pictures or the name of the charity. I'm calling bullshit.
posted by null terminated at 6:29 AM on February 10, 2005


I've googled "Samanthapettai", the name of the village where this supposedly happened. There's no mention of this story on any major news organization. The only thing that comes up is this particular story, copied to and ranted about on endless blogs (mostly with names like www.smirkingchimp.com and www.ravingatheist.com and conversionagenda.blogspot.com).

For lack of supporting evidence, I'm calling bullshit too.
posted by orange swan at 6:43 AM on February 10, 2005


thedevildancedlightly, hmm, maybe I was the only one that saw George Bush swear in front of a large crowd of people that the Bible was his handbook for the presidency and not the Constitution. He uses his faith like a weapon and shield.

orange swan and others calling bullshit, I've noted, on my own blog, that this is an uncorroborated story without the pics or validation to back it up. It might be crap, it might also have slipped through the cracks.

But I'd like to see a few pics as well.
posted by fenriq at 7:37 AM on February 10, 2005


Catholics generally don't belive in the need to "go out and convert the heathens"

I attended parochial school as a child and proselytizing, by and large, was not as big a deal in the Catholic religion as in other religions. We tend to focus on breeding more Catholics, not converting them. While there's that whole overpopulation issue, at least Catholics will never go the way of the Shakers.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:39 AM on February 10, 2005


Well, the intersting story is that there is a fairly active campaign among Hindu nationalists, especially the far right, against "forced conversions" and the Pope "meddling in India's affairs." There is some deep-seated resentment about the role of Christian missionaries in India beyond the Hindu nationalists as well. These tensions have increased as a result of the missionaries role in tsunami relief.

I'm calling bullshit on everyone who's "calling bullshit" on this. Am I the only one that finds this completely annoying and useless. Based on the evidence, what can we learn about what's going on in India? Similar things are being reported on Indian news sites too, not just atheist agenda sites...

Rediff.com

As I was visiting the areas close to the sea that were badly affected by the tsunami waves, I saw another angry scene outside another temple in another village.

Police jeeps were seen parked outside the temple in Samandapettai. So was a van.

Villagers were complaining to the police about a missionary group to which the van belonged.

They said the group had taken away to another place their belongings and the relief they had got from nongovernmental organisations and the government, which they had kept inside the temple, because they refused to listen to its missionaries.

"They want to try their luck at some other place. Since we resisted, they took away our things. We won't allow this to happen," they said. "Why don't you arrest all of them?" the villagers asked the police.

The villagers' torrent of angry words continued. "We have lost everything to the sea. They said they would help us if we followed their religion. What logic is this? Are they here to help us or change our religion?" The police couldn't cool their tempers.

Times of India

Widespread arson and stone-throwing across the city in the morning left several persons injured, hundreds of buses damaged and many store-fronts broken. Normal life was disrupted as mobs forcibly closed down shops and blocked traffic in several areas following the bandh call given by Hindu Jagran Vedike to protest Hinn's show. Elsewhere, BJP leaders protested and courted arrest.
posted by nequalsone at 7:55 AM on February 10, 2005


P.S. The original post was pretty weak IMHO. NewsFilter, AgendaFilter, WhateverFilter, the post would be a lot stronger with links to other stories, other viewpoints, something. The Hitchen's link just seems like an attempt to not look like you're making a one-link newspost. Amazon links may have their place, but a link where you can buy supporting evidence for the main link is pretty lame.
posted by nequalsone at 8:03 AM on February 10, 2005


Hitchens
posted by nequalsone at 8:04 AM on February 10, 2005


Anyone willing to convert for food isn't going to be much of a convert,

There is a term for this. I'm having problems dredging it up from the dark recesses of my memory but I believe it is "Rice Christians."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:07 AM on February 10, 2005


Thanks for the supporting links, nequalsone.

I disagree that we who called bullshit are full of shit, though. We suspended belief because of the lack of supporting evidence. It's not hard to believe this sort of thing is taking place, but I want some validation before I believe it - like the name of the organization(s) responsible, for starters.
posted by orange swan at 8:11 AM on February 10, 2005


Your first link tells the following story:

1. An angry mob objects to a priest spreading his religion. Note that there is initially no mention of this being tied to food aid.

2. Later, when they've failed to get any legal action against the priest, suddenly they claim he's a thief.

3. After reluctance on the police's part, they form an angry mob to force the police to "arrest" the priest.

According to your second link, an angry mob attacked a Christian revival meeting by rock throwing and arson.

I continue to call bullshit.
posted by unreason at 8:12 AM on February 10, 2005


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver sums up this type of missionary well.

Seriously, did anyone NOT see this coming?

Call bullshit all you want but this so typical that I'm prone to credit it accurate until its proven otherwise.
posted by nofundy at 8:14 AM on February 10, 2005


Faith in God without any solid evidence: Bad.
Faith in news story without any solid evidence: Good?
Okay....
posted by Stauf at 8:22 AM on February 10, 2005


unreason: the links were not meant to provide evidence that the originally posted story actually happened. the links were meant to add to the discussion about why the behavior of missionaries in India is contentious, interesting, and important.

orange swan: i'm not suggesting that those who think the story is false or unsupported are full of shit. the evidence to support the story is lacking. but unless you have some information that is not available to the rest of us (if so, please link it up), your insistence that it is "bullshit" seems like nothing more than a desire to believe that this sort of thing could never happen. how did you arrive at this belief? faith?

perhaps it is tangential (certainly not worthy of metatalk), but i find "calling bullshit" to be avoiding the discussion at hand.

[whining]and i personally find it annoying[/whining].
posted by nequalsone at 8:38 AM on February 10, 2005


the links were meant to add to the discussion about why the behavior of missionaries in India is contentious, interesting, and important.

Yes, but the links aren't so much a reflection of the missionaries' behavior as they are a portrayal of Indian society's intolerant reaction to them.

your insistence that it is "bullshit" seems like nothing more than a desire to believe that this sort of thing could never happen.

No, it's a reaction to the fact that there's absolutely no evidence what so ever that it happened, and that most of the accusers have an axe to grind against Christianity. If you heard a member of the KKK ranting without proof about something that a black man supposedly did to him, your first reaction would be to call bullshit, not to take him at face value.
posted by unreason at 8:47 AM on February 10, 2005


the links were not meant to provide evidence that the originally posted story actually happened.

Stories that aren't or cannot be substantiated shouldn't be presented just to start a discussion about an issue, no matter how important that issue may be.
posted by Cyrano at 8:50 AM on February 10, 2005


your insistence that it is "bullshit" seems like nothing more than a desire to believe that this sort of thing could never happen

You are miscontruing my position. I said that "it's not hard to believe this sort of thing is taking place, but I want some validation before I believe it". How did you arrive at the belief that I therefore desire to believe this could never happen?

i find "calling bullshit" to be avoiding the discussion at hand.

I'm calling bullshit on this linked article because there isn't sufficient and creditable material to discuss. Like I said above, it's not hard to believe that stuff like this is going on, but I want verification. We've got very little to go on here as of yet.

On preview: what unreason and Cyrano said.
posted by orange swan at 8:55 AM on February 10, 2005


unreason: yeah my first reaction might be to say it didn't happen, but on reflection insisting that it didn't happen without any proof is pretty weak. it might be more helpful to say, the KKK has historically used three specious arguments to show that white people are oppressed by black people. here are examples of each. this story is a perfect example of specious argument #2.

on preview: cyrano, i agree it was a bad post, but i thought the thread might be saved by discussing the issues that it brought up. i guess not.
posted by nequalsone at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2005


But i thought the thread might be saved by discussing the issues that it brought up. i guess not.

And many threads are saved by the discussion so that's hardly a sin, but the logical claims of the link should ideally be a strong as possible, otherwise some people will question them, and then those people will be accused by other people of trying to stifle discussion on an important issue, and it generally doesn't go well from there.
posted by Cyrano at 9:19 AM on February 10, 2005


wow, so people who aren't Christian are the KKK in the analogy? Pretty harsh, gives some insight into your thought process though, especially since you have very little to go in in the article, but are still convinced of an unreasonable "anti-Christian" attitude.
posted by chaz at 10:12 AM on February 10, 2005


btw, unreason, I agree with you that this report is very slim and should not be taken seriously without further evidence, but I think you should take that advice as well.
posted by chaz at 10:32 AM on February 10, 2005


The people "calling bullshit" only want solid evidence. Those assuming the claims are true are simply hearing what they want to hear and are outraged that anyone doubt the news story, because "isn't this what christian groups do?"
posted by null terminated at 10:34 AM on February 10, 2005


Well, here are some more supporting links. Samaritan's Purse is a huge charity based near my hometown. It is run by Franklin Graham, who you may know as the son of Billy Graham, or you may remember from a few years back when he denounced the Islamic religion categoricallyas "evil." I became aware of them when they showed up in my child's public school, asking for donations for Operation Christmas Child, which sends boxes of toys to kids at Christmas: each box contains a bible and is only offered to Christian kids in refugee camps - or kids who swear to be Christian henceforth. IMHO, ick! also illegal, although the school was nonplussed when I complained. To the point, however, my local paper has been running a series of fawning articles about Samaritan's Purse and their efforts in Indonesia; these people have a known and long history of proselytizing (at the very least) with their relief efforts, and it is ridiculous to think that they are going to stop just for the tsunami.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2005


wow, so people who aren't Christian are the KKK in the analogy? Pretty harsh, gives some insight into your thought process though

No, people who come from a culture that sets missionaries on fire are the KKK in the analogy.
posted by unreason at 10:56 AM on February 10, 2005


No, people who come from a culture that sets missionaries on fire are the KKK in the analogy.

A. I wonder what would happen if there was a disaster in Alabama and Muslim or Hindu missionaries came with aid but refused to give it unless people converted to Islam or Hinduism. Wouldn't be a pretty sight, I don't think.

B. So because once some missionaries' vehicle was set on fire, in a different part of India, these totally different angry people "come from a culture that sets missionaries on fire"? That is specious to say the least.

You have a point to make which is "don't trust articles without a lot of source material and first-hand accounts, but you undermine it completely with your faulty logic, weak analogies, and specious attempts to paint the issue, which you admit has no supporting evidence, as a continuation of "anti-Christian bias".
posted by chaz at 11:02 AM on February 10, 2005


i didn't know there was "a culture" that sets missionaries on fire. but i do know that far right (some say fascist) organizations do lynch non-Hindus and destroy their places of worship. sounds quite like the KKK. mostly you hear about targeting Muslims, but attacks on Christians are apparently rising. check human rights watch or similar.
posted by nequalsone at 11:06 AM on February 10, 2005


for example
posted by nequalsone at 11:12 AM on February 10, 2005


uncanny hengeman - ah, yes, that thread, in which I posted links to about 5000 memos and investigations from our own government, which is how I "just know" it's happening.

Do you ever get tired of completely misunderstanding what is being said?
posted by kyrademon at 11:52 AM on February 10, 2005


Where have we heard about this before?

A friend once told me that when the Greek Orthodox church sends people into the field, there's a division of labor among the groups, with missionaries being people sent to do chartity work and convertors being people sent to gain adherants to the religion. Can anyone speak to the veracity of that assertion?
posted by NortonDC at 2:42 PM on February 10, 2005


If the story is true, the missionaries are ignorant of Christ-ianity (not to mention not very effective missionaries). If the story is not true, then some of us are getting worked up for nothing. But there must be a whole spectrum of people working tsunami relief with agendas of varying degrees of hidden-ness. e.g. I'd bet more than a few NGO development execs were rubbing their hands at the sight of another 'crisis' which would bring in truckload$$$. That'll get your Hell ticket punched just as quick as some of the other stuff mentioned above.

Disclosure: I work for an 'missions' agency which I believe is doing right by the folks of Aceh, even if they have an agenda.
posted by sandmonk at 3:53 PM on February 10, 2005


i actually typed 'folks'... the hell?
posted by sandmonk at 3:54 PM on February 10, 2005


the intersting story is that there is a fairly active campaign among Hindu nationalists, especially the far right, against "forced conversions" and the Pope "meddling in India's affairs."

In the absence of which conversions and meddling, a good story widely disseminated might do just as well? I mean, if I were a rabble rouser, that's what I would do. People will believe anything if it's in the papers

On the other hand, if rks404 is correct: My family lives in NE India and this is understood to be SOP for the Christian missionaries working with tribals. The Christians demand conversion and the tribals often pretend to comply in order to receive food or other goods (and I am in no way saying he is not), I really would like to hear some particulars. Names, supporting foundations- the sort of thing conspicuously absent from the links.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:12 PM on February 10, 2005


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