The tsunami in Southeast Asia has left in its wake a trail of tragedies, yet one of the most pressing and tragic aspects of any disaster on this level are the multitudes of children now orphaned. Deprived of the people who made their important decisions to lead them down the right path, they now face uncertain futures that will be decided for them by adults they’ve never met. If recent developments serve as any indicator, this could quickly become a scary prospect.
In reports revealed last week, it was leaked that a U.S.-based welfare organization called WorldHelp has been planning to adopt up to 300 children orphaned after the tsunami and explicitly provide them with Christian homes. I read this and I sighed, for every time we make the sort of misguided and ignorant moves personified by WorldHelp it becomes increasingly clear that the United States has yet to realize its most effective weapon in combating their negative stigma: trust.
What a concept, this idea of instilling trust in a group of people different from ourselves instead of attempting to fit them into our own mold. Imagine actually accepting the differences of other people instead of ignoring their cultural traits and attempting to infuse our own brand of society into their lives. Insert sarcasm where needed.
Trust, or the lack thereof, is often the root of conflicts between any number of parties and our relationship with the Muslim community hinges upon nothing less. With the dirty tactics being played by WorldHelp, could we blame Muslims for being distrustful of our intentions with our relief effort? There are of course no quick fixes, but the potential goodwill to be generated from a relief effort unblemished by controversy and religious politics would be a positive foundation on which to begin.
However, foolish ethnocentrism has thrived. We have established a truly American sense of self-worth to the point where we feel not only justified but also obligated to overextend our hand. When such a disposition results in actions like those planned by WorldHelp, it reaches obscene levels.
In reaction, a group of Indonesia’s most influential Islamic clerics have felt it necessary to issue a warning of a possible backlash by Muslims if the proposed plan is implemented. The subsequent response provided by evangelist Mark Kosinski is truly one of the most ignorant statements I have read in a long time: “These people need food but they also need Jesus. God is trying to awaken people and help them realize that salvation is in Christ.”
So let me get this straight, Mr. Kosinski. First, you’re going to sink to new levels of insidiousness by capitalizing on the vulnerabilities that such disasters can bring to the surface by converting their children to our own religion? Then, you’re going to explain to them that their entire family was wiped out because God was “trying to awaken people?”
Excuse the small pun, but, dear God.
I realize that many will likely think I am overreacting. People may wonder what I have against Christianity, how I could deny its positive attributes.
In response, let me just ask that we all take ourselves back to the weeks following Sept. 11, 2001. True, the circumstances were very different in that one was an attack and the other a natural disaster, but the suffering Americans endured after the loss of so many people so unexpectedly is no different than those Asians affected by the tsunami.
In light of such circumstances, could we possibly imagine accepting and embracing a plan by Islamic aid groups to adopt the 1,300 children orphaned after Sept. 11,2001, with the intent of converting them to Islam and rearing them in Muslim households?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Noah Potvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.