ATELINE: LADONG, Indonesia – The Americans in matching T-shirts were
greeted as heroes when they arrived one afternoon with clean water and
medical care. But how the help got here was something the tsunami survivors
could scarcely comprehend.
The forces of faith, fund-raising and globe-trotting volunteerism have
opened a stream of private Christian aid to one of the most religiously
conservative corners of Muslim Indonesia.
From the volunteers in a Ladong palm grove to aid provided by Samaritan’s
Purse, a group run by the son of evangelist Billy Graham, the initiatives
show the power of church congregations to gather donations when tragedy
It also highlights the rising aspirations among a new style of Christian
relief leagues mostly linked to evangelists and activists in the United States”¦
Some of the conservative Christian leaders who have outraged Muslims also
have mounted aid campaigns to Indonesia.
Evangelist Franklin Graham, the son of veteran preacher Billy Graham,
called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion” following the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks. His Samaritan’s Purse relief organization sent a 747 cargo
jet with medical and humanitarian supplies as part of a $10 million aid
effort. The younger Graham toured battered coastal towns in Sri Lanka and
Indonesia this week.
A team from evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University plans to travel
to regions hit by the tsunami to bring supplies and “thousands of Gospel
tracts in the language of the people,” according to an announcement. In
2002, Falwell called the Prophet Mohammad a “terrorist” but later apologized.
Smaller Christian groups linked to evangelical churches also have joined
the flow of tsunami help.
“Just when our nation’s image in the Islamic world was improving as a
result of the outpouring of American aid in the tsunami disaster area, we
hear from those who would exploit the tragedy to advance their own
extremist agenda,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations in Washington