German TV magazine targets missionary work in post-Saddam Iraq

The German TV magazine "Panorama" denounced Southern Baptist missionaries in Iraq as "America's Holy Warriors," comparing their spiritual and humanitarian activities with Islamic terrorist attacks.

The program, shown on a major network June 24, underscored its assertions by quoting Baptists saying they are prepared to die for their convictions, reported the Assist News Service.

Many Christians telephoned the station in protest, and the German Baptist Union criticized the "one-sided" portrayal.

German Baptist spokesman Friedrich Schneider points out not only American, but Arab Baptists have been active in Iraq for a long time.

Schneider said that while Arabs choose a more "sensitive" approach than the Americans, it was irresponsible to put politically and theologically conservative Christians on the same level with Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists.

The former general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, Karl Heinz Walter, said Panorama showed Baptists in a "bad light."

Walter noted the program falsely claimed President Bush is a Southern Baptist. Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church, which was highly critical of the military campaign in Iraq.

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton and his vice president, Al Gore, both are members of the Southern Baptist denomination.

Assist said Panorama journalist Volker Steinhoff still maintained the report contained no factual error, saying it had focused on the Southern Baptists, not all Baptists.

"There could be no doubt that their activities had caused much alarm and even hatred in Iraq," he claimed.