Bible Brigade

Cottle, Michelle
April 2003
New Republic;4/21/2003, Vol. 228 Issue 15/16, p16
The Reverend Franklin Graham has long been something of a thrill seeker. In his quarter-century as head of the Christian relief agency Samaritan's Purse, the eldest son of the legendary Billy Graham has earned international respect for supplying food, water, shelter, and medical care to regions where other angels fear to tread. Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, southern Sudan--the more stricken and war torn the area, the greater the opportunity to help, reasons Graham, who delights in personally piloting the group's small planes through airspace prone to artillery attacks and sniper fire. The 50-year-old Graham is preparing his organization for perhaps its biggest challenge ever: bringing relief to the freshly liberated populace of Iraq. Samaritan's Purse workers are amassing in Jordan, waiting to cross the border the moment U.S. bombs stop falling. It is a risky endeavor: Long after the U.S. military declares victory, pockets of Iraqi resistance and general chaos within the country could prove hazardous even to veteran volunteers. But the graver danger may be the one Graham's workers pose to U.S. policy in the Middle East--specifically, their potential to convince the Arab world that Operation Iraqi Freedom was, in fact, the opening salvo in a modern crusade against Islam. Like many faith-based relief agencies, Samaritan's Purse mixes its humanitarian aid with a liberal dose of proselytizing. Unlike the leaders of other organizations, however, Graham has long been an outspoken critic of Islam, the official religion of some 97 percent of Iraqis. News of Graham's intention to extend his aid ministry into Iraq has set off alarm bells among Muslim groups both at home and abroad. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has loudly denounced Graham's mission as an attempt to take advantage of a desperate, vulnerable people.


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