Two very interesting and somewhat critical articles about Christian workers and organizations going into Iraq in the wake of the war for evangelistic purposes:
I hate to say it, but even as a missions-minded Christian, I agree for the most part with the sentiments implicitly expressed in both. To me, it looks like some of these groups are setting themselves up for the religious equivalent of the Marine who draped the US flag over Saddam's statue in Baghdad: bolstering the stereotypical view of Arabs who see Americans and more generally, Christians, as simply out to destroy Islam and convert everyone.
It greatly troubles me to see some churches and missions organizations, while having the best of intentions, having a modus operandi little different from the "convert the heathen" mentality of white colonialists of centuries past. Islam/communism/etc. == evil, Christianity == good, the "door has opened" so let's go in ASAP. Who cares about current emotional sensitivities and preliminary cultural survey/research (eg, Caleb Project) anyhow?
With Arab sensitivity towards the US and questioning of their true motives as it stands right now, I can't imagine that this would be the optimal time. While I do share the exuberance that many other people worldwide feel at these Iraqis being liberated from apparent tyranny, I fear that these groups may fast wear out their welcome, and simply make it harder for other people to go in later. Yes, the Iraqis might be free, but I can't imagine that they would die if someone doesn't share the Good News with them as their first priority right now. I'm not saying that giving aid and using that as a inroads for evangelism is fundamentally and uncategorically wrong -- but Iraq now is probably not the right time and place to do so. Is it any wonder why many secular Americans, to say nothing about Arabs, have a negative view of missionaries?
Now if these people want to go to Iraq, fine... but if I were going at this point in time, I'd go under a totally secular group, such as the Peace Corps, Red Cross or such. If they share their faith and they don't get well received, the liability and negative reprecussions will be limited to themselves and they won't taint the image of their groups or Christians in general along with it. Maybe I'm being too paranoid, but any group that's publically associated with the least bit with Christians could potentially cause trouble at this time -- just my gut feeling.
And a lot of this stuff I've thought and written about this before, from the perspective of not an Arab but a Chinese, a perspective different but not all that much so... Having been to China and other East/Southeast Asian countries multiple times, I've been very fortune to talk at length with both those doing ministry there, and those who are on the receiving end of it.
Groups like OMF and Partners that have been on the Asian scene for a while and are respected (even by the very governments of the target countries!) invariably work like this: they send people in to do a service -- teaching English, rural development, medical work, whatever -- competently and unconditionally, and through it, they naturally build deep, significant relationships first with the locals where then ministry can be done in a non-conditional, non-aggressive, and non-deceptive manner. For example, making the subject of the majority of discussions in an English class religion or faith is not natural, and the students see right through it. Take it from first-hand experience...
These groups do send many short term teams abroad, but those short term teams exist more for the purpose of giving team members a taste of what it's like long term, rather than just trying to unnaturally and hurriedly evangelize and pretend they can pull off something useful in a summer which (rightfully) takes a year or more.
Of course, we should be proactive in reaching these closed countries through whatever methods we can, and I remain convinced that tentmaking and other forms of service will be the way to reach the 10/40 window countries. But treating the "secular" aspect of what we do as simply a means to "get in", and then blowing it off, or hurrying too fast to evangelize is to me, wrong, deceptive, and counterproductive.
It's not a racial slur, and it's not the only part of the solution, but I do think we need more Asians/Asian-Americans (or Arabs or whoever) in leadership roles in missions... or at least people who know something about or at least can view things from the "other side"...