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Category: Opinion and Analysis

umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming 2014.12.12 | 19 Safar 1436 AH


Aid worker morale has had a rough month in South Africa. From the Iraqi Ambassador Dr. Hisham Al-Alawi calling aid workers terrorists (if they’re Muslim), to the public deeming them saints if they’re Christian, umm Abdillah glimpses into missionary work in brown, black or Muslim countries. She also suggests we stop beating around the bush and call out South Africans Pierre Korkie (killed in Yemen) and Pastor Werner Groenewald (killed in Afghanistan) as the alien evangelists they were. Via their own congregations in South Africa we’re told that they lived and died seeking to impose another way of living upon Muslim vulnerable natives in war zones. They knew well that martyrdom in Christ’s way was the price they’d pay if things went down.


If media sentiment is to be expounded, it was Al Qaeda, not the US who killed Pierre Korkie. Waldimar Pelser <‏@waldimar> acting editor of Afrikaans newspaper Rapport tweeted: Dec 6 -

“Yes, but remember who the bad guys are here. Certainly not the US.” 

Indeed, if Pierre Korkie were slain but via “barbaric murder” by the US, we would have had even more Al Qaeda, “Islamist” and deliberately divisive rhetoric thrown around in South Africa. Injustice upon injustice is excusing the intent of Christian “aid” workers, and on the other hand demonising the role of innocent non-proselyting Muslim-led charity organisations like we saw in recent Sunday newspaper reports.


Iraqi ambassador to South Africa, Hisham Al-Alawi told newspapers that recruitment and fund-raising for ISIS was being carried out in South Africa by groups positioning themselves as humanitarian workers. To date his claims cannot be proved; regardless, the media had a field day reporting and fueling his lies.


The role of missionaries in SA and abroad


As South Africans, we tried and failed to extract Korkie from his misery. We all sympathise, not glibly, for the traumatic loss of a father and husband. The missionary work Korkie did in Yemen, and pastor Werner Groenewald, 46, his son, Jean-Pierre, 17, and daughter, Rodé, 15, did in Afghanistan is however hardly as benign as being reported. Whether we denounce Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or ISIS, or Osama, or Obama, it is not equivalent to the manner in which Islam and Muslims have become demonised in the process.


Did the deeply religious, running coach and biology teacher from Bloemfontein, just up and leave for Yemen in 2009 to do “charity work” in the “unstable” Arabian peninsula? Hardly. From Libya to Haiti, and Africa, the accounts below serve as a reminder as to what their type of ‘aid work’ entails.


“Brash, insensitive proselytising – which characterises the gung-ho approach of many (but certainly not all) Christian organisations – often creates more animosity than goodwill, and increases hostility towards anyone who might be identified, rightly or wrongly, as a Christian. It also provides, in the twisted rationale of fundamentalist groups, a pretext for violence against foreigners.” [1]


White missionary presence, not unlike that which Korkie and others epitomise in Yemen, Libya and Kabul, arrived in southern Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It played an ambiguous role in the history and affairs of the region. Perhaps genuinely driven by a desire to serve humanity and bring about material and social changes, they were more often than not, possessed by a moral self-righteousness, which led them to make hasty and uninformed judgments upon indigenous norms and values they were scarcely equipped to understand. They sought to impose an alien morality and work ethos upon the local people without realising that these undermined their most basic social and cultural tenets and were therefore largely resisted. The dichotomy of this approach was not something that found separate expression in different individuals but was often incorporated within the same person. [2]


Humanistic values, such as equal dignity and rights for all humanity, are often professed by many Christian denominations. But does this preaching make any difference to their members' actual prejudices? Apparently not. A February issue of Personality and Social Psychology Review published 55 independent studies, which considers surveys of over 20,000 mostly Christian participants. Religious congregations generally express more prejudiced views towards other races. The study found that a denomination's demand for allegiance to its Christian creed overrides any humanistic message only encouraging its members to view outsiders as less worthy.


How does Islamic da’wah and proselytsing work differ?


Firstly, the largest proselytising movement in the Muslim world, the Tabligh Jamaat works only with Muslims, encouraging them to be better Muslims.


Secondly, one only needs to look at Africa and much of the Middle East before World Wars and colonisation to note who the good guys were – Muslim rule churned out unprecedented educational, scientific, architectural and trade monuments. On the other hand what did Christian missionaries’ and their marauding European Kings’ eventually turn it into? Islam has been a traditional (while not indigenous) part of the dynamic African landscape for over 1438 years, far older as a contained religion than much of the 11th and 15th century native religions that came with the Bantu expansion into Southern Africa and West Africa. Beginning with the Hijra of Islamic refugees to Ethiopia in 615, Islam remains one of the most fundamental sculptors of the African reality, past and present. Korkie, underplayed as this may be, and other missionaries like him, sought and seek to actively change that dynamic.


Thirdly, one only needs remember the march against Qaadsiya fought in 636, a decisive engagement between the Arab Muslim army and the Sassanid Persian army during the first period of Muslim expansion. When Rustum, the king of Persia asked the Muslims, why had they come to Persia, a deputed envoy, Rabi ibn 'Amir said:


“Allah has sent us to deliver you from worshiping His creation to worshiping the Creator of the creation. Allah has sent us to deliver you from the constriction of this world, to the vastness of this world and to the vastness of the afterlife. Allah has sent us to deliver you from the oppression of religions’ to the justice of Islam. Allah has sent us to save you from worshiping each other.”


If the purpose of missionary work were to be summarised, it should be the above. The Arab new Muslims were known underdogs. They were unsophisticated, nomad Bedouins with no empire, wealth or boastful culture to speak of, and the Persians were the total opposite. If they crossed seas to spread Islam to the Persians it was with genuine humanistic goodwill at heart. They wanted to free fellow humans from the shackles of humankind - not steal resources and impose a messy, racial, tribal and sectarian power-play like their Christian counterparts.


The last word on Pierre Korkie - By Angus Buchan


From a monthly column by farmer, preacher and writer for Jesus, Angus Buchan - Dec 8, 2014 [3]


Many years ago a young dynamic and passionate missionary went to the Amazon jungle with his beautiful wife and a few of his friends. His name was Jim Elliot. Before he reached the age of thirty, he was martyred. He was murdered by the very people he was trying to speak to about the Gospel. Sometime before he died, he wrote “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This young man gave up his life on this earth, but as a result he received eternal life. Many other missionaries have since followed Jim Elliot’s footsteps, because of his testimony.


That is what happened just recently to a former schoolteacher of Grey College, our dear brother Pierre Korkie. He gave his life for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is absolutely tragic because he has left behind a young wife and two young children, but the good news is that they will see him again and he will be seated very close to the Master. It is said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”, so even as Pierre has given up his life, I know that many young people will be inspired to go to the mission field for our Lord Jesus.


Those of us who are left behind need to continue to plant good seed, we need to continue to die to self, we need to be sure that we run this race to the end, because the Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in good starters, He is interested in good finishers. Pierre Korkie has finished his race, he is in Heaven and he is waiting for those of us who love Jesus to join him. Let us put our hand to the plow and not look back.


Yours in Christ

Angus Buchan


Additional Sources:


[1] Simon Allison for the Daily Maverick (Feb 2013)


[2] Missionary settlement in Southern Africa 1800-1925


[3] South Africa Christian News Portal, Gateway News