If you've been reading the editorial pages lately, you've no doubt been keeping up with the ongoing debate about the best way to address problems in the Islamic world. Obviously we are working to eradicate terrorism, but what do we do about the civilians in those countries? Endless opinions have been offered on how we can best help to improve life for the billions of people in Afghanistan and other underdeveloped countries.
Many believe in the untrue notion that there is a limited amount of wealth in the world and the only way to help people in developing countries is to give them large chunks of Western resources. But that doesn't work, and it won't work in Afghanistan. It is a temporary solution at best, not only because it doesn't guarantee the resources would even reach the people who need them most, but also because it misses the source of the problem in these countries: no understanding of how to create wealth because of the lack of a Christian worldview.
You see, as Christians we understand that wealth is not limited. God has given basic principles in His Word that, when obeyed, create wealth and when ignored create poverty. It is no accident that the United States and other countries whose economic practices are informed by Judeo-Christian principles are wealthy. Our governments and markets are more sound because we have based them on the biblical ideal of human dignity, which provides a theological basis for the individual liberties that create a just and free society.
Because Christianity, unlike every other major religion, argues that people can have personal relationships with God, it is the only worldview that truly believes people should be free. If developing countries were open to the gospel, their inhabitants could be set free from sin and every form of darkness, including lack of education and opportunity.
The gospel is the only philosophy ever articulated that leads to true freedom. The gospel is the only ideal that liberates individuals from oppressive governments and strict religious systems. When all the best scholars, political leaders and pundits are arguing about how they've found the best way to control people and fix all the problems in the world, the gospel stands up and shouts: "Let people be free! Let them choose for themselves!"
Thus, the answer to the problems in developing countries, and particularly in the Islamic world, will not be found by merely giving an already bankrupt set of values more cash. Instead, it will be found in the Bible. More specifically, it will be found as the gospel is spread to those countries.
Should Christians support foreign aid? Yes, we should. But we also need to provide aid that will lead to lasting change: missions. Mission work is the best answer to the problems in developing countries.
Strategic work with nationals based on committed, long-term relationships will do far more to alter the course of these countries than any financial aid package. Christians should finance holistic development and send educators and health care workers, but our efforts should be primarily focused on church planting and work that will produce a significant worldview shift. The people of the Middle East need to know not only that America cares, but also that God cares and wants to give them true freedom.
Simply put, we need missionaries. If missionaries dedicate their lives to the cause of Christ in Islamic countries, the aid that occurs will be radical, effective and lasting.