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CHRISTIAN GROUPS ACCUSED OF ‘PROSELYTISING’ MUSLIMS IN BANDA ACEH , INDONESIA

Christian International News (12/23/05)

By: Dan Wooding

Muslim Groups Accuse Christian Aid Groups of Proselytising

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA – Tensions between fundamentalist Muslims and Western aid workers have begun to erupt in Aceh as the tsunami-devastated Indonesian province slowly recovers, reports Sian Powell in a story written in Banda Aceh for The Australian newspaper.

“Islamic activists have claimed that aid workers are secretly attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity, pointing particularly to World Vision, Aceh Relief, the International Catholic Mission and Church World Service,” said Powell.

“And Western women have been sent threatening text messages, warning them not to be seen on the beach in swimming costumes, ‘or else’.

“Rumors swirl in Aceh of conversions from Islam to Christianity, of plans to undermine Islam with largesse from Christian charities and of a secret Christian agenda of seemingly innocuous aid organisations.”

“Aceh was traumatized by the Boxing Day tsunami, which left 170,000 dead and missing, but however needed the Western aid organisations have been, they have always been watched with wary eyes.”

Sian Powell went on to say, “An elder of the al-Hassanah mosque in Banda Aceh’s Geuceu district said a gift of Christian money could not be used for a new roof for the mosque. Instead, the money was borrowed from elsewhere, and the donated funds from the broad-minded US-based Catholic Relief Service were used to repay the loan — preventing the Christian cash having any direct contact with the mosque.

Long known as Indonesia ‘s most conservatively devout province, Aceh introduced strict Islamic sharia law in 1999. Gamblers have been publicly caned and religious police have detained bare-headed Muslim women or couples seen canoodling.”

“Christian organisations flatly deny they are trying to bring the Christian faith to Aceh.

“World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said his organization had a strict policy forbidding proselytisation.”

The story concludes that Aceh’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency will begin investigating the allegations next month and, more importantly, probe why the Acehnese are feeling so insecure about Christians in the province.