One of the little-discussed dangers of our U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq is that the reputation of Christianity in the Middle East will be further damaged. Whether the impression is legitimate or not, it is a simple fact that American Christians who attempt to minister in Muslim-dominated countries are viewed as agents of the policies of the United States government. We evangelical Christians are especially vulnerable on this score, since we firmly believe in the need to witness to people of other faiths about Jesus Christ, thus reinforcing the hostility of extremist Muslim groups.

The present situation, then, offers an important opportunity for evangelicals to demonstrate their deep concern for the fundamental physical needs of suffering people in Iraq. I am convinced that these two evangelical groups who are poised to provide humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people can perform a crucial service--not only to the people they are reaching out to, but also for the cause of Christianity in the world.

But--and this is an important qualification--we must do this with a genuine desire to serve human needs. If this is viewed as a pretense for evangelism it will only hurt the Christian cause--and perhaps further endanger the lives of the 600,000 Christians in Iraq (about whom surprisingly little has been said in the recent discussions of "God-talk" and American foreign policy!).

I rejoice in the stated purposes of the Southern Baptists and Franklin Graham's ministry. And I will pray that these evangelicals will be given both the wisdom and courage to witness silently but compellingly to the spirit of Jesus as they perform this crucial humanitarian work.

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