Editor, the Gauntlet,
If Mother Theresa was alive today, I’ll bet she’d want to have some words with Lawrence Bailey.
While Bailey’s comparison of relief workers in the Middle East to dirty pimps is dramatic, it is hardly a convincing argument. Bailey acknowledges that relief groups like the Shelter Now International “are so important in restoring hope and enriching the lives of the oppressed and displaced,” but then argues these groups have no right to express their religious belief.
Whether we like it or understand it, religious belief is one of the most powerful motivators on the planet. It caused men like Deitrich Bonhoeffer to be executed by the Nazis for refusing to keep silent and for defending the Jews. It caused women like Mother Theresa and the Sisters of Mercy to live with and serve the dirtiest, most reviled, and most ignored members of Indian society.
As Bailey points out, governments turn a blind eye to the plight of the weak and the poor. Those who see a bigger picture of humanity, whether they are humanists, Buddhists, Muslims or Christians, are often the ones who put their money where their mouth is and take direct action. For the members of the SNI, not only is expressing their Christianity publicly punishable by death, so too is being a Christian in Afghanistan. The members’ belief that they are “instruments of God’s love” has caused them to put their lives on the line in order to help others.
There is no doubt that manipulative proselytizing is unfair and destructive. Many misdirected Christians have taken it upon themselves to “evangelize” the planet instead of concentrating on practically expressing their convictions with respect and humility. Often, all they have managed to do is to bring Western colonization to places where it doesn’t belong. Perhaps the SNI’s evangelistic practices are out of place. However, all members of society are informed by their belief systems. Who can argue that they don’t make decisions and take actions based on their beliefs? If society attempts to force relief groups to separate their religious belief from their work with oppressed peoples, we will find ourselves with more oppression, more suffering, and no one willing to do anything about it.
Editor, the Gauntlet,