Back inthe Australian Council of Churches went into partnership with the Catholic Church to establish Force Tena donor-based service providing overseas aid and development.
Welcome to the program. As the Asian tsunami disaster moves to the inside pages of the newspapers and the work of rebuilding shattered communities gets under way, Christian groups all over the world have been quick to mobilise relief efforts.
But for some, the call to provide help has been interpreted as an opportunity to win the hearts and minds, and souls, of non-Christians. And not surprisingly, the religious outreach hasn't been going over well in some quarters.
In Indonesia earlier this month, the US evangelical group World Help announced it was planning to move three Caritas religion report Muslim orphans from Aceh to a Caritas religion report children's home in Jakarta.
The plan was dropped after the Indonesian government stepped in, and shortly afterwards, the head of Indonesia's Council of Religious Scholars issued a warning to proselytising Christians: One organisation that's openly combining aid with preaching is Gospel For Asiaa missionary group that works throughout India and South East Asia, planting churches and setting up bible schools.
At the moment, they've got four thousand relief workers on the ground in India and Sri Lanka, and they're committed to staying and working with local communities there for the next two years.
Yohannon, and he's speaking from Chennai in South India. Well you know, we offer mission. Our big commitment is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, this is our model.
Jesus went around doing good to all men, healing the sick, feeding the poor, having compassion for the needy and the suffering. At the same time he preached to them the message of the kingdom of God. So we do not go out giving food and clothes so that we can force people, entice them, to become Christians - but every one of our missionary evangelists and people, they carry with them a copy of the New Testament and Gospels, and sit down, people share with them and lead these people to the Lord, those who open their heart.
And one of the greatest joys I have is to hear stories of actually people who were contemplating committing suicide. It was our workers talking to them, sharing with them the word of God, and leading them to the Lord that gave them hope. We are not forcing anyone for anything - but we are called by Jesus to preach the gospel, and that we do, whether there's a tsunami or not.
And when people are hurting the most, they will listen to God better. So tell me then, what do you think that the first priority of a Christian aid worker should be?
Should it be to save souls, to win people to Christ? Or should it be simply to provide food and shelter and medical aid? I believe the responsibility of every believer, a Christian, is to first address the pain and the sickness and the issue they are dealing with.
That's what Jesus always did. At the same time, understand that God made man for eternity, not for time, therefore they have to be hand in hand at the same time, sharing with them appropriately, and in a loving way, the need for them to turn to Jesus.
Unfortunately, what has happened often is that people so heavily concentrate on just meeting the physical need. And of course, they get well, and will have a house - but they die also, eventually go into eternity without Christ.
And this is where a radical, sincere, devout follower of Christ will see things beyond the natural. But isn't there a contradiction there: Isn't the ultimate aim - as you say - to get people to come to Jesus? But here is the thing, though; see, when you read the Gospels, you'll never find Jesus ever forcing anyone to follow him or believe in him.
I know there are Christian groups, extreme people, who will use this kind of opportunity to exploit, because they want them to join their church, they want them to join their movement, or become Christians like they are.
But for us, in one place we built two hundred houses some years ago in India, We never made them Christians; until this day, all of them are Hindus.
But we gave them a New Testament, and shared with them. We do this because of Jesus, just like Mother Theresa. But our people never run back and say, 'Oh by the way, we gave you this house, how come you don't become Christians? If people do that, I think it is not right.
I suppose the difficult theological question that comes up here, then, is why does God choose such a terrible means of bringing people to the point where they're ready to receive Christian teaching?Caritas Visit the Caritas website for more information and opportunities to contribute..
Caritas Australia is the Catholic agency for overseas aid and development. It aims to: help people to help themselves, regardless of race, political beliefs, gender or religion.
Caritas is a Latin word meaning love, charity and compassion.; Caritas Australia . Caritas Internationalis is confederation of over members who are working at the grassroots in almost every country of the world.
Caritas Australia helps people help themselves — regardless of ethnicity, religion or political beliefs. Our agency supports long-term development programs in impoverished communities in Africa, Asia, Indigenous Australia and the Pacific — helping oppressed people to rediscover their dignity by taking greater control over their lives and .
For the sake of thy charity, which is the head and the top of all the testaments, ut dicitur, caritas super exaltat omnia. Caritas Internationalis reflects the social mission and core values of the Catholic Church. We believe in dignity, solidarity and stewardship on behalf of .
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