Blogger Michelle Malkin has an excellent item today at RealClearPolitics.com about how the media have a lack of interest in stories about Christian missionaries kidnapped, brutalized, and tortured at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Here's an excerpt, after which I share my thoughts on what we could expect to see from the biased media should some of the South Korean missionaries make it back alive and find themselves interviewed on say "Dateline NBC":
The blood of innocent Christian missionaries spills on Afghan sands. The world watches and yawns. The United Nations offers nothing more than a formal expression of "concern." Where is the global uproar over the human rights abuses unfolding before our eyes?
For two weeks, a group of South Korean Christians has been held hostage by Taliban thugs in Afghanistan. This is the largest group of foreign hostages taken in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. What was their offense? Were they smuggling arms into the country? No. Inciting violence? No. They were peaceful believers in Christ on short-term medical and humanitarian missions. Seventeen of the 23 hostages are females. Most of them are nurses who provide social services and relief.
I noted the media shoulder-shrugging about jihadist targeting of Christian missionaries five years ago during the kidnapping and murder of American Christian missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in the Philippines. The silence is rooted in viewing committed Christians as alien others. At best, there is a collective callousness. At worst, there is outright contempt -- from Ted Turner's reference to Catholics as "Jesus freaks" to CBS producer Roxanne Russell's casual insult of former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer as "the little nut from the Christian group" to the mockery of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.
Curiously, those who argue that we need to "understand" Islamic terrorists demonstrate little effort to "understand" the Christian evangelical missionaries who risk their lives to spread the gospel -- not by sword, but through acts of compassion, healing and education. An estimated 16,000 Korean mission workers risk their lives across the globe -- from Africa to the Middle East, China and North Korea.
Michelle is right about the media disinterest in Christian martyrs. Of course, if some of them come out of the ordeal alive and the media interviewed them, what could we expect?
Sadly, I think we need look no further than the case of Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer, who were practically given the third degree in the media months after their rescue from an Afghan prison in Operation Enduring Freedom.
Take the June 11, 2002 edition of "Dateline NBC" in which reporter John Larson gave the missionaries and their pastor Jimmy Seibert the third degree for evangelizing in Afghanistan, questioning the "ethics" of the missionary work being covert, insinuating and that their missionary work was akin to "spying."
Portions in bold are my emphasis:
LARSON: Might a Muslim say the people of Afghanistan have lost everything and the only thing they have left if their faith.
Ms. MERCER: Mm-hmm.
LARSON: And a missionary or an aid worker comes in and tries to take away the one thing they have left.
Ms. MERCER: Mm-hmm.
LARSON: What do you say to them?
Ms. MERCER: For them to hear, 'God loves you. There is hope for your country. We believe that God wants to rebuild Afghanistan.' It actually doesn't take anything away, but it gives them what they're longing for.
LARSON: (Voiceover) Christian evangelists face almost impossible obstacles. In most conservative Muslim countries, evangelism is against the law. And that poses a defining challenge: Should Christians conceal their real agenda? Many Christian aid workers say no. Seibert, however, is not so sure.
LARSON: Should a Christian be covert?
Mr. SEIBERT: That's a great question, isn't it?
LARSON: I mean, it's an ethics question.
Mr. SEIBERT: Yeah, yeah. It's an ethics question. I think that you're--you're getting into a whole semantics deal. I believe that people can be, quote, unquote, covert and be doing the will of God from their heart.
LARSON: Do you wind up having to teach, to instruct your people to--the nice way to say it would be discreet?
Mr. SEIBERT: Mm-hmm.
LARSON: The mean way to say it would be deceptive.
Mr. SEIBERT: Right. Yeah.
LARSON: It's like are you training spies for Jesus?
Mr. SEIBERT: Right. Yeah. I would say no. We're training spies. We're telling people, 'Hey, be wise in all your relationships.'
LARSON: Be smart about it.
Mr. SEIBERT: Yeah, be smart about it, but don't be deceptive.
LARSON: (Voiceover) Easy to say, but for Mercer and the Antioch team, apparently difficult to do.
(Mercer and Curry at press conference)
LARSON: Is that something that's hard for you to say? Can you say, 'Well, yes, we were there to plant churches in Afghanistan'?
Ms. MERCER: No. I mean, I was there to share the love of Jesus and to serve the poor.
LARSON: (Voiceover) Yet Heather's own business card, handed out before leaving for Afghanistan, seems to clearly state what she planned to do: church planting in Central Asia
Opening the program, Larson told viewers that Curry and Mercer had been deceptive in defense of their work and gave critics the chance to smack around Curry and Mercer for sharing their faith rather than merely distributing food and performing charitable work. (portions in bold are my emphasis):
JOHN LARSON reporting:
(Voiceover) It was one story from September 11th with a storybook ending. The American aid workers, Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry, escaping the clutch of the Taliban who'd unjustly arrested them, charging them with trying to spread Christianity. After their terrifying ordeal, the two women received presidential praise at the White House.
(Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry being reunited with family members; Mercer and Curry with family at White House)
President GEORGE W. BUSH: They had a calling to serve the poorest of the poor. And Afghanistan is where that calling took them.
LARSON: (Voiceover) But behind the president was the mother of one of the women who says the president, and even the nation, had been misled by the aid workers.
(Mercer and Curry with family at White House)
Ms. DEB ODDY: They realized that they were in there breaking the law.
LARSON: (Voiceover) A Christian herself, Oddy says she pleaded with the church to cancel the trip. She even wrote to her congressman and the State Department, urging them to stop what she called Antioch's unconscionable, ill-fated mission before we watch their executions on the 6:00 news. But she got nowhere.
(Oddy typing on computer; documents; excerpt from document)
Ms. ODDY: Basically, there was nothing that they could do because they were not breaking any US laws.
I have some more newsletters.
LARSON: (Voiceover) But Oddy says there was something else which made her fear even more for her daughter's safety. She saw growing proof that the Antioch team was not being up front about what they were doing. First, there was a flyer which her daughter gave friends, urging them, by Oddy's description, to use secret code words in their letters.
(Oddy looking at papers)
Ms. ODDY: (Reading) Be creative. Instead of Jesus, say "the carpenter." Instead of Christians, say "believers." Instead of the Bible, say "the book."
LARSON: (Voiceover) And, she says, Antioch Ministries got another organization already working in Afghanistan to sponsor them. Shelter Now International, a humanitarian relief effort based in Germany.
Ms. ODDY: Convert souls to Christianity, those who had not heard the word before. And they had hoped to build a church.
LARSON: So basically the humanitarian aid story is essentially a cover story.
Ms. ODDY: It was certainly secondary to their mission.
LARSON: (Voiceover) Her daughter sent family members this videotape of her home, luxurious by Afghan standards. Inside a cabinet in the living room, something banned by the Taliban.
(Home video of Mercer's home)
Ms. MERCER: (From videotape) We keep our viewing machine, our vision machine in there. Can't really say the real word.
LARSON: (Voiceover) It was a VCR, smuggled into the country. Why? Oddy found the answer in an e-mail.
(Home video of Mercer's home; Oddy reading)
Ms. ODDY: (Reading) Please pray that we will have many opportunities to have people over to watch the film.
LARSON: (Voiceover) What they were talking about was the "Jesus" film. In Afghanistan, under arguably one of the world's most repressive regimes, it was not only illegal to show it; anyone who watched it might be arrested or executed. According to a Taliban edict, "the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion." But to Oddy's distress, she read that her daughter was showing the film anyway.
(Excerpt from "Jesus"; edict; excerpt from edict; excerpt from "Jesus")
Ms. ODDY: (Reading) One of my teammates and I were able to share the J film with several families who live in a nearby neighborhood.
LARSON: (Voiceover) And there was the radio, Christian stations outside the country where they suggested Afghans hear the word.
(Radio tower; radio dial)
Ms. ODDY: (Reading) The radio program is an incredible way to learn about him. We distributed several in the last two weeks.
LARSON: (Voiceover) In her heart, Oddy says she knew what was coming.
Unidentified Man #2: Their purpose was to invite people of Afghanistan and all over the world to accept Christianity.
LARSON: (Voiceover) On August 3rd, the Taliban's religious police arrested Mercer and Dayna Curry in a local home. Word of the arrest reached Oddy a day later.
(Taliban police with Christian materials)
Ms. ODDY: August 4th...
Ms. ODDY: Just let me recover.
LARSON: Yes, of course.
(Voiceover) Her worst fears were now a reality. Her daughter was in prison facing the death penalty for deliberately breaking the law in a country with which the United States had no diplomatic relations. The US Army, of course, came to the rescue, and one day after Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry were set free, they told the world that 80 percent of the Taliban's charges against them were incorrect.
(Mercer being arrested; prison; Afghan citizens; US Army helicopters; Mercer and Curry at press conference)
Offscreen Voice #2: What were the 20 percent which were?
LARSON: (Voiceover) It seemed they were not exactly prepared for the question. They admitted they'd been in an Afghan home, that they'd given a child a book about Jesus.
(Mercer and Curry at press conference)
Ms. DAYNA CURRY: Also, we had shown them part of the "Jesus" film, and that was true, so.
LARSON: (Voiceover) But not a word about secretly trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. In fact, just the opposite, suggesting that any religious conversations had happened almost by accident.
(Mercer and Curry at press conference)
Ms. MERCER: So it was very natural for them to share with us, and often they would ask us questions about our own faith.
LARSON: (Voiceover) In the weeks to come, sharing appeared to be the operative phrase.
(Mercer and Curry with Katie Couric)
Ms. MERCER: We just shared who we are, and live life with the Afghans.
Ms. CURRY: It was such a joy to get to share and to share how Jesus has changed my life and share how he has given me hope.
Ms. [sic] THOR ARMSTRONG: You know, you cannot go into a situation without a hidden agenda. You just can't.
LARSON: (Voiceover) Thor Armstrong is the founder and former director of Shelter Now International, the aid organization which helped get Mercer and the Antioch team into Afghanistan. He says if the workers were proselytizing, he believes they were doing more harm than good.
(Thor Armstrong; Afghan citizens)
Mr. ARMSTRONG: People then, they realize, 'Oh, you're not really here to help me. You're here to fulfill your agenda. You're here because, you know, you have some quota that you have to reach, some number of souls, perhaps, that you have to save.'
LARSON: (Voiceover) Armstrong, a devout Christian, says proselytizing, especially as a secret agenda, not only demeans people in need but threatens the safety and success of relief efforts around the world. In fact, he felt so strongly about that, that in 1990, Armstrong took a stand.
(Armstrong; aid workers with people)
Mr. ARMSTRONG: Proselytizing is out. You can't do that, period.