Seeds Being Planted

The U.S. State Department sponsored this meeting in March 2005. The meeting was documented in a newspaper article in the Enterprise-Journal which was written by Ernest Herndon.

MIDDLE EAST

David P Smith

2021-05-24 3 min read


This picture was taken in March 2005, in front of the clinic where I worked in Summit, MS, then.  Below is a copy from the Enterprise-Journal newspaper where this was reported.  Looking backward, it easier to see how God was shaping His plans for later involvement through this organization's ministry.

Middle Eastern Countries meeting in March 2005 at Pinnacle Medical Clinic in Summit MS

Doctor hosts Middle Eastern visitors

Apr 1, 2005

A most unusual meeting took place Monday when Dr. David Smith, state director of the American Family Association, and Parklane Academy administrator Billy Swindle sat down with a group of mostly-Muslim visitors from the Middle East to discuss politics and religion.

Three men and four women from seven Middle Eastern nations,plus two interpreters from the U.S. Department of State, met at Smith's medical clinic on Smithdale Road for a two-hour discussion.

The visit was part of the International Visitor Program administered by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Office of International Visitors.

"The objective of the program is to increase mutual understanding through communication at the personal and professional levels,"according to a State Department fact sheet.

"They are selected by American embassies overseas to visit the United States to meet and confer with their professional counterparts,and to experience this country firsthand."

These are not media events. They're kept low-key to encourage frank discussion and to prevent retribution to participants from nations with oppressive governments.

The interpreters asked that I not list the names or countries of the participants.

The group had met earlier with members of the American Civil Liberties Union in Jackson. Smith figures he was chosen as a conservative counterpoint. He invited Swindle and me to join the discussion.

The topic was the separation of church and state. Smith proved to be an articulate spokesman for the conservative view that religious values should play a role in government, and that judges and groups like the ACLU have gone too far in trying to remove every trace of religion from government.

When the visitors expressed concerns that such views could lead to a theocracy, or a government controlled by religious zealots,Smith assured them that he believes in democracy and that he would not want to live in a nation with a state-mandated religion.

You could see the visitors relax when they heard that.

Some of them come from places where Islamic leaders enforce their brand of religion on everyone, where one religious group controls the government while others suffer neglect or persecution.

Everyone present agreed on the need for mutual respect among people of different faiths. Smith compared God to a father who wants his children to come to him voluntarily, not out of coercion.

One Muslim woman who works in the field of education pointed out that the dress codes and conduct standards at her school are almost identical to those at Parklane, a Christian school.

The Muslims present (only one of the guests was Christian)also denounced terrorism. The word jihad, they said, refers not to violence but to an individual's spiritual struggle.

They described suicide bombers as typically uneducated, unemployed and "brainwashed" and noted the Quran condemns suicide.

They expressed the wish that Americans could realize that real Muslims abhor violence and esteem peace.

And they seemed glad to learn the same is true with conservative Christians.


Swindle, Smith reflect on visit

Here are reactions from Swindle and Smith after the meeting:

• Swindle: "I was very impressed with how alike I guess we were basically, and the idea that the Golden Rule 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' was in all their religious activities too …

"We may have cultural differences and even a language barrier to overcome sometimes, but they're human beings like us, and I think they found out that we were too."

• Smith: "I learned that people in those countries are just like I am. They have a little different skin color, and they look a little different, but they have the same wants and needs that I do. They want peace. They want happiness in their lives. They want to raise their families and come home at night and not have anybody try to hurt them …

"I learned that I need to respect their opinions and not just look down on them because they think differently about something…

"I think they're going to take back this knowledge they gained here to their own country and have a different idea of what America is really about. And maybe it will encourage more openness of thought about how they think of Christians, how we don't try to force anybody to worship in our way, and that they (Islamic leaders) shouldn't force people to worship Islam."

"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ,..."  Colossians 4:3

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