Last week, the head of Iraqs largest Christian community denounced American evangelical missionaries in his county for what he said were attempts to convert poor Muslims by flashing money and smart cars.
Patriarch Emmanuel Delly of the Chaldean Catholic Church told journalists that Iraq was not in need for missionaries as its Christian churches dated back long before Protestantism. As for trying to convert Muslims, he said: You cant even talk about that here.
Delly also stated that the evangelical missionaries were not real missionaries, claiming that they attracted poor youths with displays of money and taking them "out riding in cars to have fun."
"Then they take photos and send them here, to Germany, to the United States and say 'look how many Muslims have become Christian," he said.
While Dellys over-generalized claims can neither be validated nor discredited, they are certainly unnecessary and unconstructive.
In a country where believers make up around three percent of Iraqs population of 26 million, incoming missionaries should be more helpful than harmful. Just the very presence of another believer should become an added support to the fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of the predominantly Muslim nation. However, if there is a problem with the method by which Western missionaries share their faith, it is just thata problem with the method, not necessarily with the motive.
Western culture is very different from the Middle Eastern culture. What may be viewed as generosity and fellowship in the West may be perceived as a lures in the Middle East.
So what is needed? Not criticism, but co-working.
Missionaries from the West do not go out with the intention of invading other regions with Western culture. It is to bring with them a life that reveals the culture of Christ. Western culture is just a secondary flavor. If the actions of missionaries are misunderstood, they should be informed and instructed, not judged and ejectedespecially not to the media.
They are not there to serve the United States, but to serve Christ and Gods childrenand not as citizens of another country, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.