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Muslims, Christians Dismiss Rumors of Proselytism

Christian and Muslim leaders work to dispel rumors of rampant proselytism in Aceh province, the staunchly-Islamic Indonesian province and site of the most widespread destruction in the wake of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

By Zenit

JAKARTA, Indonesia, FEB. 4, 2005 (Zenit.org) — Muslim and Christian leaders issued a joint statement to dispel fears that post-tsunami humanitarian aid being provided in the Indonesian province of Aceh is a means of proselytism.

Articles appearing in the American and Indonesian press suggested that evangelical Christian organizations which arrived in Indonesia to help in the wake of the tsunami had objectives that were more religious than humanitarian.

Responding energetically, Indonesia's Christian communities denounced all attempts to use the humanitarian mission to evangelize as this is in direct opposition to the spirit and teaching of true Christianity, reported Fides news agency.

The leaders urged the international Christian communities who want to help children affected by the tsunami in Aceh and North Sumatra to work in cooperation with the Muslim Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhannadiyah organizations — the latter represents 40 million Muslims in Indonesia — as agreed by the Christian bishops and Muslim leaders.

The signatories of the statement applauded the efforts of the Indonesian government to prevent affected children from being taken way from Aceh for treatment, and asked people not to be caught up by rumors.

"We hope that all polemics that are unproductive to humanitarian work in Aceh and North Sumatra be swiftly ended. Now is the time for us to work together to overcome this national disaster. May God, creator and guardian of life bless our efforts," the leaders stated.

The statement was signed by seven Muslim and Christian religious representatives, including Father Benny Susetyo, secretary of the Interreligious Dialogue Commission of the Indonesian episcopal conference.

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