Baptist Mission Board says its workers are safe

The mission branch of the Southern Baptist Convention said Wednesday some of its personnel in the Middle East had been temporarily relocated due to concern over war with Iraq.

Mark Kelly, spokesman for the denomination's International Mission Board, declined to say how many missionaries had been moved or where they had gone. He did say, however, that the decision to relocate was being left to the workers.

"It's difficult to assess exactly what risks people may be facing," Kelly said. "Most personnel have said they would like to stay where they are. ... Leaving when your very good friends there don't have that option is extremely hard."

Kelly said contingency plans are in place to move missionaries quickly if it becomes necessary. The mission board in Richmond will maintain close contact with regional offices in the Middle East to monitor its workers' positions, he said.

The IMB has more than 5,400 missionaries deployed worldwide.