In an article printed yesterday, it was reported that some Iraqi residents were being handed coins with Bible passages printed on them. Many citizens in the town of Fallujah being Sunni Muslims view this as an attempt at conversion and believe that the American soldiers doing this should cease the practice.
One resident was quoted as saying, "Because we are weak this is happening." In reading the opening story presented in this article, it certainly seems that the Americans, be it one person or a large group, are able to pass these message coins onto Iraqis based on fear that some citizens have of these soldiers. Because the citizens fear these soldiers, they take what is given to them, only later to find these Bible passages. Citizens of the town have been seen in large groups discussing these coins, and at least one Iraqi has stated that, "This can cause strife between the Iraqis and especially between Muslim and Christians . . . . Please stop these things and leave our homes because we are Muslims and we live in our homes in peace with other religions."
A local U.S. military spokesman says an investigation has begun in order to determine if U.S. soldiers are in fact handing such religious materials to Iraqi citizens. Such act of “proselytizing any religion, faith or practices” is prohibited by the military. These allegations follow not far after a U.S. sniper was removed from Iraq after using the Quran for target practice. President Bush issued a former apology for the sniper’s actions, and most likely will be required to apologize once again if these new allegations are found to be true. If such incidents continue, a mere apology may not be sufficient.
By no means is anybody alleging that the U.S. on a national level is attempting to convert all Iraqi Muslims to Christianity. At this point it is unknown just how many soldiers are distributing the coins in question, but it seems unlikely that it is a group effort being perpetrated by an entire branch or even troop of soldiers. Still, it is necessary that such practices, no matter how widespread or unique, stop in order to respect the Iraqi citizens’ choice in faith.
The job being performed by U.S. troops in situations such as this is to assist in stabilizing the country and ensure peace is established. Whether non-military citizens believe this effort is working or not, it can hardly be argued that the military’s job is to spread the word of Christianity. Troops are not to force any aspect of their culture on the country’s citizens, but are to only help to ensure that Iraqis are able live in peace and to help assimilate Western culture into the country when asked.
By attempting to force religion on others, the only result can be more strife and discord. By forcing this religion, a new level of distrust may be formed by those not wishing to be converted. Whether this distrust is leveled at foreigners (the U.S.) or at other Iraqis who follow Christianity, the only effect will be new problems that may lead to more fighting and undo the efforts at rebuilding and stabilizing the country.