AP, Jan. 19, 2003
By MICHAEL BUETTNER, Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. – A group of Southern Baptist missionaries working in Muslim countries has asked the U.S. leaders of their denomination to tone down their harsh criticism of Islam for safety reasons.
The missionaries said denigrating Islam puts them at risk as they work to spread Christianity under dangerous conditions overseas.
On Dec. 30, a suspected Islamic militant killed three workers at a Southern Baptist hospital in Yemen – the latest in a series of attacks over the last year on American religious workers abroad.
“We are not sure if you are aware of the ramifications that comments that malign Islam and Muhammad have – not only on the message of the gospel but also upon the lives of our families as we are living in the midst of already tense times,” the missionaries said in the Jan. 10 letter.
The statement was signed by “a group of Southern Baptists serving in the Muslim world,” who did not give their names. The two dozen missionaries were from 10 countries in the Mideast, North Africa, East Africa and South Asia.
Several Southern Baptist leaders have condemned Islam since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Rev. Jerry Vines, a former Southern Baptist president, has called the Prophet Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile.” The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, called Islam “a very evil and wicked religion.”
The Rev. Jerry Falwell has said the religion promotes violence. His remark sparked rioting in India that led to confrontations between Muslims and Hindus which left five people dead. Falwell later apologized.
The missionaries work under the auspices of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Richmond.