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'Adopt a terrorist for prayer,' site urges
Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is among the people listed on the website for prayer 'adoption.'
February 25th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

'Adopt a terrorist for prayer,' site urges

By Katie Glaeser, CNN

Could you pray for people who planned bombings, carried out shootings and terrorized civilians? A movement in the U.S. is asking Christians to do just that.

At atfp.org, Christians are asked to “adopt a terrorist for prayer.” A quote from the Bible on the site urges visitors to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

"Where is the Christian response to terrorism?" the site says. "If the struggle against violence done in the name of Islam is primarily spiritual, then defeating it requires a spiritual response."

Adopt a Terrorist For Prayer (ATFP) spokesman Thomas Bruce tells CNN the site's main goals are to teach people how to pray for their enemies and to spiritually reform the terrorists.

The site was launched in 2008, with the interactive adoption feature being added in 2009. Bruce says 603 people have registered to prayerfully adopt a terrorist.

While the idea of praying for your foes isn’t new, Bruce says his team created the site in hopes of transforming the war against terrorists.

“We’ve been fighting this for about 10 years with material means, and it hasn’t really changed the nature of it,” Bruce says. “By bringing spiritual perspective to it, and as the Lord answers some of those prayers, it could and should hopefully have a profound change on the viciousness of the conflict we’re in.”

The ATFP site lists 165 people available for “adoption,” most of whom are designated by the FBI and State Department as terrorists or sponsors of terrorism. Just sign up, scroll through the list and choose which individual you’d like to pledge to transform through prayer. CNN could not verify the authenticity of all the names listed on the ATFP site.

Some terrorists have more sponsors than others. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has been adopted by 13 people, while Detroit underwear bombing suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab has just eight. All of the people listed have ties to Islam.

We ask Bruce why that’s the case. He says while he’s considered adding Christian or even eco terrorists to the list, they “aren’t a big threat to national security, our way of life, or our freedom. We should pray for them too, but the movement doesn’t threaten existentially our existence the same way the Islamic terrorists do.”

Bruce has been intimately involved in the conflicts of the past decade. While he was toying with the idea of the site a few years ago, he was called up as a U.S. military reservist. His passions collided when he was sent to northern Iraq to work for one year as a chaplain.

“It’s really important to service personnel to do their service for their country without dehumanizing the people who are trying to hurt their country,” Bruce says. The perspective Jesus brings, he says, can help soldiers deal with the enemy with dignity and treat them as fellow human beings.

And that’s the thought that carries over to his work with ATFP. “Even once someone is captured, they might not be a threat nationally any longer but they still have value to God, and we’d still like to see them changed,” he says.

But ATFP has its critics. Some people say terrorists don’t deserve their prayers, and others just mock the idea.

“I think the ridicule comes from people who don’t believe that spiritual things are valid, and prayer is a valid way to address problems,” Bruce says of critics.

The former military chaplain says he would like to see groups in other nations start similar initiatives, but that for now he just hopes this movement spreads throughout the United States.

“It’s not just the terrorists who are in bondage to an evil system. Christians can be in bondage to an evil system, too," he says. "Part of the struggle is to be liberated from that evil system, and that’s what we believe Jesus Christ helps us to do.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 9/11 • Belief • Christianity • Terrorism • Violence

soundoff (688 Responses)
  1. Kari

    Why didn't we think of this sooner? We've been praying for our troops in harms way and our military and policitical leaders all along the way. Prayer for terrorist should revolve around praying that their attacks be unsuccessful, that their plans be thwarted, and that God forgives them for their sins against mankind. Even as Christ lay dying on the cross, he prayed for those that were persecuting him.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Something

      Kari,

      And the terrorists are praying every bit as fervently to their "God" that they will prevail.

      Which imaginary supernatural superhero will win?... oooh, the suspense!

      February 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Stacey

      This couldn't hurt, so why not? I think the principle of this approach itself helps undercut the hateful messages of terrorists and further demonstrates that we will not be taken down to their level and they cannot break our spirits. And if the prayers are answered-all the better.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  2. CheckUrFacts

    I for one am just glad to see Christians who are willing to practice what they preach. That's become a very rare thing.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  3. Kate

    Where is Islam's response to terrorism? Where's the peace and love? We're waiting and listening.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Rock

      Ahh yes – the new plague

      February 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  4. Rita Emmer

    I applaud the spirit and initiative of this movement. You are right. Prayer is the most powerful healer! Love, not hate will evolve our world. Pray works!

    February 25, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  5. Jason

    True Christians dont fight nor do they brandish weapons weaker than the mind. The way of the fool is right in his own eyes. Ask and receive deny and be deceived.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  6. WILSON

    praying for enemy is correctt as per bible God tells his people through Ezekiel that he will change their heart of stone into a heart of flesh. He will give them a new spirit and a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26

    February 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Kelli

      Amen! 🙂

      February 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  7. CosmicC

    If the prayer is that they will stop the violence, I agree with you. If the prayer is that they will "see the light" regarding Christianity as the right path, that's counter productive. They will see this as yet another attempt to convert them by one means or another.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  8. Peggy Munro

    Religion is totally different from prayers. You do not need religion to prayer and you do not necessarily prayer because you have religion.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  9. Troy

    Touching, but useless. Good luck in your work.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  10. Rock

    I pray these terrorists die the way they deserve and not the way they want to

    February 25, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  11. Peggy Munro

    Bin Laden, according to a Saudi, who stayed in my home for two months is a very, very rich guy disillusioned with a number of things, that turned him into a hateful, destructive person after studying under a radical leader. He said Bin Laden is not only an enemy of the West but an enemy of humanity. He, according to this person terrorizes Saudi Arabia and the Arab world more than he does the West.

    Maybe the guy does need spiritual intervention. Nothing else seems to work.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Rock

      Maybe we could send him to a Catholic wedding? That should be serious enough punishment...I barely made it out of one of those

      February 25, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Trish

      Thanks, Peggy.
      We've tried everything in our human power to stop, convince, cajole people into non-violence (whether they are Islamic extremists or "Christian" abortion clinic bombers). Hasn't been working, I daresay.

      Prayer is not just a "feel good" way for someone to claim superiority. I'm seeing a lot of people asserting this on these posts, and – sadly – in too many cases, that IS what happens. It's sad. It's human. EVERYONE has to deal with and guard against pride, envy, anger, greed, etc. With Christ, I can battle those things and be someone who makes a difference, through serving with my hands and feet, and though praying on others' behalf.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  12. mike

    Can you people grow up? This isn't the land of make believe where thinking, physically just....thinking makes a difference. This isn't some Disney movie. Really? This is the world I live in? Aren't terrorists "gods warriors" in THEIR min.....oh forget it.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  13. Darwin

    Christian Americans don't obey what the Bible says. For example, after Pearl Harbor, instead of "loving our enemies" and "turning the other cheek", we dropped two ATOMIC BOMBS on them. Furthermore, as far as prayer influencing the actions of terrorists, BILLIONS (maybe even TRILLIONS) of prayers have been sent up to God over the last 2000 years to bring us WORLD PEACE, and I'M STILL WAITING.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Trish

      And how woudl you know that all Christian Americans wanted to bomb Pearl Harbor? Please provide me your empirical and anecdotal evidence. Such broad, sweeping assumptions are really quite pathetic.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Darwin

      Actually, there were Quakers and Jehovah Witnesses who declined to serve in WWII as soldiers and served as non-combattants, but they were a very small percentage of the armed services during the war.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Dan

      As a Christian, I agree with you entirely about the atomic bombs. We didn't love our enemies. I wish Christians would have been a voice of restraint, but instead they blended in with everyone else. IIt seems most Christians only love their enemies until they get scared of physical harm. At that point, they try to kill their enemy first.

      However, when you mention the prayers of world peace – the bible promises peace at some point. Jesus said there would be wars and violence, and the only promise of peace was under his rule. Obviously that doesn't matter to anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus, but the lack of peace doesn't contradict scripture. If anything, it affirms it.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  14. Meh

    nice little 'Fail' article here

    February 25, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  15. Stuck@work

    PRAYER?!?! Religion is the cause of all these wars. Prayers will absolutely not work. These men and women and children are brain washed. They have their own belief system and that will never change. They have one advantage we don't have....they do not fear death. Death is their reward in the end. So just ask yourself one question, How do you beat someone who has nothing to lose and is not afraid of death?

    February 25, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • LouAZ

      Shoot him.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Nonimus

      Just a thought. Give them something, like freedom, rights, education, so they have something to lose.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Stuck@Work

      Nonimus you said "Give them something, like freedom, rights, education, so they have something to lose" - They will never want these things because they see the western world as "imposing" that on them. If it doesnt come naturally to them, they won't accept it. HOW ABOUT we focus on our own people and let everyone else do their own thing. MONEY is what drives us to "spread" democracy. These people lived without it for CENTURIES, thats something you can't just go ahead and change. These people kill their own people...Freedom, rights, education won't change that.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  16. Peggy Munro

    Fantastic idea,

    I have been praying to God for people to start realizing that the answer to a lot of the world's situations should be faced with collective prayers.
    Before we send out war ships and armies we should first pray. The power of collective prayer demonstrates our ability to come together for common good, using a force based on love for our fellowman and woman.

    We all share the same universe. Our prayers have to be stronger than those offered up by terrorist who prayer for strength and guidance to defeat the oppressors. And according to their prayers, the oppressors are us. So yes! If enough people were to prayer for a specific solution for the sake of the people, then it could very well be answered.

    I am praying for God to deliver Libya from Ghadafi. For seven days I prayed for Egypt. I am also praying that the terrorist will find a different way by God giving their leader a clear and powerful vision, free of violence and that the leader will lead his/her people out of the wilderness.

    I am not a preacher. I do not even have a religion but I care deeply for my community of people trying to live good lives and contribute positively to the lives of others.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • capnmike

      You are wasting your time...there's no "god" there listening to your begging. Things happen or they don't, and that's all.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Kelli

      I agree with you Peggy. The Bible does say to love our enemies and to pray for them. We shouldn't love what they do – their sin – but as people love them. We should pray that they truly find God and who He really is...the God of the Bible and of all existence. If they truly knew God and what His will is for this world, it would not be to commit acts of terror. So that's why prayer is needed, so that repentance and accepting Lord as their Savior could happen.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Sarrel

      Capnmike-

      How do you know there is no God? The fact is, no one knows for certain that there is or isn't a God....so until you have facts proving otherwise, please stop attacking everyone who has a different opinion than yourself. I don't understand the need to make people feel bad about their beliefs, whether they are Christian or Atheist.

      February 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  17. Get Serious

    Oh you POOR little terrorist. I'm going to PRAY for you. Click – BANG – kachunk, kachunk [ terrorist chambers another round ]. Oops. Rooock of Ages, cleft for meeee...

    February 25, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Sarrel

      Your post is very odd

      February 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  18. mm

    The exact quote is "pray for those who persecute you for my name sake." This article and these people pushing this prayer thing is not understanding what the text means. People are persecuted daily but not necessarily for religious reasons. Every situation is not a religious situation. I'm not against prayer, but please get the quotations in context. Too many religious people take their religious text and quote them out of context and this is one of the reasons why people have a difficult time with religions.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Virologist

      I completely agree. On a similar note, a lot of Christian groups in the US seem to think that the negative reactions they receive are a measure of how faithfully they are following God's command. The Bible does say they will be persecuted for professing Christ. It is true that people sometimes respond poorly when someone is actually doing something good, or when they profess something others don't believe in. However, people also respond poorly when Christians are acting like self-righteous jerks. If that is the case they are not being persecuted for Christ, but instead for being jerks. Such persecution is well deserved.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Dan

      Don't accuse people of 'misquoting' the text i and failing to misunderstand it f you don't bother to look it up. Matthew 5:44 simply says "pray for those who persecute you." Romans 12:14 says "Bless those who persecute you." Go to biblegateway.com and look it up. It doesn't say, as you claim, ""pray for those who persecute you for my name sake."

      February 25, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Epidi

      The Bible has so many different publishings in different wording so how can you say it is taken out of context if you are looking at only your own version of the Bible? There is the standard King James version (they call it that because the King himself revised it), the New American Standard Version , New International Version, The New World Translation. How do Christians keep it straight? Were is the original compiled text?

      February 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Love your enemies

      Respectfully I offer, from Matthew 5:

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" Matthew 5:43-46

      February 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • CheckUrFacts

      The EXACT quote varies depending on which translation of the Bible you are reading. Indeed, you are taking your quote out the context of the remainder of the New Testament. The message Jesus taught was one of forgiveness not vengeance and this theme is repeated throughout. From the "Golden Rule" to "Judge not, lest ye be judged." So even if your translation of the Bible does say that, your argument only attacks grammar and not the point being made.

      February 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  19. Manuel

    Jill, you are right about tolerance and respect, but as an atheist (who actually sponsor 2 children in south america) Im tired of getting looks and questions from religious people when i say i dont believe in organized religion. It seems religious groups have all the right in the world to openly express their views and be proud (some are just too funny), but the minute someone says he or she is an atheist then I get looked as if im crazy .

    February 25, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • capnmike

      People who have been brainwashed since birth with fairytales and lies have made it part of their subjective reality. They actually BELIEVE that there is this whole world of invisible supernatural beings that nobody has ever seen and that akll the garbage in the bible is true...so when you tell them that you don't believe it, they DO think you're crazy...and it threatens their whole "reality structure", and they can neither stand that nor stand the idea that they have been lied to all their lives. .

      February 25, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • james

      @ Manuel, I am Christian but I often get strange looks from fellow believers when I express my own rather liberal interpretation of how I should live. My point is that just as some terrorists give followers of Islam a bad reputation, so do the 'red neck-like' brand of Christans.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • NoReligion

      Religion is in our genes now. It's is almost impossible to get rid off it. No one wants to think rationally anymore.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Peggy Munro

      Not everyone does that. Many of us that believe in God do not have any religion and do not try to convert others. Stand up proudly. You sound like a good, caring person .

      February 25, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Battsman

      Agreed! – The hypocrisy can be truly amazing.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Brett

      capnmike I love how you talk about it as if you know that for a fact.

      live and let live brother.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:38 am |
    • Epidi

      I'm Pagan and I don't think you're crazy! I get the same look from people when they find out I'm Pagan. Stick to your beliefs, or disbeliefs, they are yours and no one has the right to keep you from declaring them openly. Tolerance for others and their differences is in such short supply. Has been throughout history. As long as one doesn't cram their "spiritual" agenda down the throat of others, then live and let live I say. There are so many wonderful Christains, Buddhists, Muslims, etc out there. Not all are radicals looking for their way to be the only way. Variety in the universe is the standard of life – why mess with a good thing?

      February 25, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • CheckUrFacts

      capnmike,

      I'm always amused when atheists (not all, but some) who try to use faulty logic to support their views. Don't get me wrong, there's a a solid argument for atheism, but it doesn't include ridicule and derision. It's clear that some people turn to atheism for the same reason some turn to religion. Emotional need.

      There are two logical fallacies that come into play. 1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and 2. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      Belief in God without empirical evidence qualifies as an extraordinary claim, but so does the claim that God does not exist since both claims are equally lacking in empirical evidence. The simple reason is that science is not capable, yet, of testing or evaluating metaphysical claims and so there is no evidence against the existence of metaphysical realities.

      Also keep in mind that the logical fallacy listed as #1 above is still somewhat controversial (Google it) because of it's subjective nature. For example, who determines what qualifies as extraordinary claims or evidence?

      As pointed out on Skeptic Magazines web page, the following quote should be a guiding principle for all who use logic and critical thinking.

      "I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions,
      but to understand them."
      – Baruch Spinoza

      February 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • sadie

      I wish I lived in whatever world you are living in. The replies to this article are simple proof that a Christian can't voice their faith without being called stupid and being told they are delusional.
      This country is being over run by the atheistic religion and woe to anyone who dares to have a shred of Christian faith.
      BTW, I was an atheist, I was raised an atheist, and when I accepted Christ my family thought it was totally acceptable to mock me and my beliefs. I continue to pray for them. Tell me, which side is the hate coming from?
      But saying all of that, I would rather be a mocked Christian with a future full of hope than to ever to back to my former bleak existence.
      may God bless you.

      February 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  20. Chut Pata

    Ah. Now I know why Xtians make so many enemies. So that they can love them and fulfill biblical commands. First take the land from Native Americans by all the majority in cold blood, and call the survivors "Indians". Then kidnap guys from Africa, rob them of their history, their culture, their religion, even their family names, and make money from plantation in the robbed land. Come industrialization, raid Arab countries and rob their oil in the name of Children of Israel. When you have enough enemies, then you can love them and be a true Christian. What a sick religion!!!

    February 25, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • james

      If we are all forced to bear the sins of our ancestors, members of all advanced civilizations are guilty.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • NoReligion

      Chut Pata; you are my hero.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Trish

      Indeed, in-name-only "Christians" are to blame for how you and many others perceive this religion.I don't blame you for your outrage. If they truly embraced what *Christ* taught...none of what you listed would be an issue. These things were caused by the greed and evil in the human heart, which are NOT in keeping with the way of Christ. So many man-made rules have diluted Christianity and have invited criticism and skepticism. It makes me sick, really.

      I sincerely hope that true followers of Christ, who – bear in mind – are human and imperfect like everyone, and are looking to be renewed via Christ, come across your path and give you a refreshing perspective on who Christ himself is and what His Way is all about.
      Blessings.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Dan

      You could take any group; Republicans, Democrats, Germans, Australians, environmentalists, communists, atheists etc., pick out the extreme actions of some of its people and say "look at what they did in the past! I see how this group works." While it might make for good rhetoric, it doesn't reflect the vast majority of the people in that category.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • HeavenSent

      It seems someone has eaten too much dust over in that dessert of theirs.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Resist710

      Religion certainly isn't to blame. It's ideology. Religion is just a small part of that.

      February 25, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Sujami

      @ Stuck@work

      Religion is just an ideolgical mindset. It doesn't cause wars, nor kill people. Religion has been used as justification for many wars to be sure, but you are a fool if you think that religion was the real reason behind them. Take a look into a history book then get back to us.

      February 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.