Some Iraqis have complained that U.S. Marines stationed there are attempting to convert them to Christianity with a special coin imprinted with a gospel verse in Arabic.
On one side, the coin asks, “Where will you spend eternity?” The other side contains the familiar biblical passage John 3:16, which reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
“They are trying to convert us to Christianity,” Muamar Anad, a Sunni Muslim, told McClatchy Newspapers. Anad said a Marine slipped a coin into his hand at a checkpoint in Fallujah. He said his relatives have also been given coins.
The proselytism effort has angered the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim population. In Fallujah, Sheikh Mohammed Amin Abdel Hadi demanded that the practice be stopped.
“We say to the occupiers to stop this,” Hadi said. “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.”
American military leaders are looking into the allegations.
“Multi-National Force-Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed out material that is religious and evangelical in nature,” Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll said. “Local commanders are investigating since the military prohibits proselytizing any religion, faith or practices.”
Two McClatchy reporters interviewed Iraqis in Fallujah and found a lot of anger.
“Because we are weak this is happening,” shop owner Abu Abdullah said. “Passing Christianity this way is disrespectful.”