Church group to drop thousands of Bibles over Islamic State-held areas
A Swedish Evangelical church group is planning to drop small, electronic bibles onto Islamic State group-held areas of Iraq, it has claimed.
“The Bibles are the size of pill boxes and have a display,” Christian Akerhielm from the Livets Ord (Word of Life) group told Sweden’s national broadcaster SVT.
“They require no electricity, but work on their own,” he said.
The church, founded in the 1980s, shares many similarities with the Pentecostal movement and focuses on establishing a direct, personal experience of god. It has commissioned a company to fly drones over Iraq to deliver the devices from high altitude.
"We start our project in a few weeks and hope to drop thousands of bibles," it said.
IS militants have been widely accused of persecuting Christians in areas they control. When they stormed Mosul, in June 2014, previously home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, thousands fled.
The few Christians who stayed behind said that IS destroyed local churches and religious statues and issued an ultimatum for them to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax, known as the jizya, or die.
But Christian volunteers have also caused controversy in recent weeks by allegedly trying to convert refugees fleeing violence in places such as Syria and Iraq.
An investigation by the Guardian found that on at least two occasions in recent months, aid workers had distributed copies of the Bible to refugees in a camp in Greece including forms asking people to declare their conversion to christianity.
The documents, seen by the Guardian, invited asylum seekers to sign a statement declaring: “I know I’m a sinner ... I ask Jesus to forgive my sins and grant me eternal life. My desire is to love and obey his word.”
Apostasy, the attempt to convert people away from Islam, is punishable by death in Islamic State-held areas, as well as in some other places which take a harsh view of Sharia law, such as Saudi Arabia.
Livets Ord, however, has rejected claims that the Bible drop is aimed at Islamic State.
“The project has been in the media portrayed as an ‘attack on IS’ or with the terror group as the main target. This is not true,” the group told Swedish media.
“Our ambition is to pass on the hope and love that can fit in the Christian gospel to a population living in closed areas where human rights are denied."
The church says its mission is to “touch thousands of lives all over the world” and sends missionaries all around the globe to spread the word of god.