'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. Anthony

    Okay, I support the message of praying for your enemies. My complaint with this absolutely ridiculously retarded idea is the fact that things are going to change in terrorists' behavior through PRAYER! Let's connect the dots, shall we? Americans are primarily Christian; the types of prayers being given are of the Christian variety. Al Queada and most terrorist organizations in the Middle East are Muslim. Christians and Muslims have been going at each others' throats since the Crusades, and to be honest, I have no sympathy for Christianity, not when a good deal of anti-Christian sentiment among Muslims is THEIR fault in the first place. Unfortunately for us, the only way things are going to change is if we violently extinguish Al Queada. This is because they're too stubborn, and they hate us...A LOT! So, props to the message, but seriously? Why don't we just leave dealing with terrorists to the soldiers with guns and the authority to "shoot on sight".

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

      I DO mean ours and our allies' soldiers of course.

      February 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  2. MD

    I prefer to show my love with a prescritption: 230 grains of lead, sub-cranially administered...

    February 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  3. Shellysmom

    The site atfp.org is getting so many hits that it is having trouble handling the capacity. I will try again later. Thanks CNN for spreading the word about this site. I did not know of it before today. @Trish–the wisdom is much appreciated. God Bless.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  4. SoulCatcher

    I chose to adopt Bin Laden. I pray that one day he comes to realize that his actions have done most to hurt the pread of Islam he so devoutly follows. He has neglected his inner struggle and encouraged muslims to kill innocent human beings. He has provoked far away peoples whom he does not understand to retalilate for his actions to kill, destroy and economically attack those who have tried to give the Middle East the peace it needs to grow. Submission to fear caused by terroriism and forced religiousness is not submission to god. At some point he will realize what he has done and I pray he is human enough to apologize and give a more positive direction to his followers that doesn't involve armed struggle. I pray for the bullet to end his suffering. May it come swiftly and by his own hands, because that is the only way he would regain his credibility in the eyes of God.

    If I had to assign a dollar cost to the suffering in the middle east he caused It would be about 4 Trillion dollars worth. And i'm not counting human deaths or injuries or psychligical wounds or lost opportunity costs. Shame on him.

    I pray that all who follow him see his cause as empty and corrupt.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  5. uhuhreally

    That's about as effective as some chruches' programs to "pray away the gay". Both a laughable.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  6. ppehs

    Our Supreme Being .......Whomever he or she be, does not need us to kill or mame each other because of insults. I believe that the Supreme Being is Great enough to shake off such trivial human behavior. We are not in the position to punish our fellow brothers and sisters and then say God, Goddess,Mohammed, Allah et,al. told them to do it. Man has created the Higher Power in his/ her own image

    February 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  7. Elena

    Praying?? If anybody wants to pray, for anything, go ahead. It won't make matters worse. It won't make matters better either.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  8. SML

    I looked at this site. I am a Christian, but am embarrassed at the fact that when Christians actually follow Jesus, they try to make it a big cool deal... advertise, boast, and turn it into a commodity. They are selling t-shirts and mugs and such, and to me, that translates as just another phony attempt at marketing Christianity. Stop all of this and go pray in your closet (Jesus).

    February 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Trish


      Sadly, there's a "Christian manufacturing scheme" that tries to make Christianity cool and trendy. Make up cute little slogans and wear wristbands. All that is for naught if my heart and mind are not on Christ. And it all just makes the rest of the world write Christ and Christianity off as lunacy. You're right, we need to pray and seek God in secret, not in a spotlight for show.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  9. Tom

    To defeat terrorism requires action and a change of mind. I can pray for years to hope that a puzzle will put itself together, or I can do something about it and make the puzzle come together myself. Prayer might help calm our minds, but it doesn't solve problems. ACTION solves problems.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  10. c

    You know there was a study done many years ago. A hospital had a group of faithful pray for individual patients, without the patients knowlege. They took a sample of patients over a period of time with the same disease, symptoms etc. The patients that were prayed for, remember unknowingly, recovered faster than those that were not prayed for. It was a purely scientific study but quite interesting to say the least. There was also a study done wow, I wont even say when, it will age me, with plants. We are off the praying topic but still spirituality. They were attached with electrodes and placed next to a fish bowl. When a pot of boiling water was added to the fish bowl the plants needles went crazy as the fish were flapping on to life. So I believe there is a very strong spiritual presence in this world. Whether one believes it is irrelevent, because the patients in the hospital proove you dont need to believe or even be aware of prayer on your behalf for it to have an affect. It certainly cannot hurt to have someone praying for you and your well being, right?

    February 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Bremca

      I did a search to find the scientific prayer study to which you referred. I found a study that was done in 2006 using cardiac bypass patients. It does not support your claims. In fact, the conclusion states "receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications". The results of the study were published in the American Heart Journal, and the study was financed by the Templeton foundation.

      Perhaps you could provide a link to a different study?

      February 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  11. Something


    "...adopting Sally who appears to need a LOT of prayer...it does work hun but i wont waste my breath trying to prove/show otherwise..."

    You only prove Sally's point here. Calling someone, "hun" is dismissive and belittling. Your self-righteous att.itude is quite offensive. Good that you decided to save your breath because you cannot "prove/show otherwise".

    I'll wish upon a star that you get a grip... and I'll bet that if we could gather enough people to partake in a study on that silly, superst.itious endeavor, the results would show identical effectiveness to prayer.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  12. KOXAWY

    I think a better to praying is maybe understanding. Praying for someone else implies that you are better and that you are right and they are wrong. I think in this world of ignorance and hatred, the best way to stop terrorists and terrorisms is to look at ourselves first and the policies of our countries that bring about terrorist movements. Nothing is created out of thin air. If a bunch of terrorists are out there hating the US, then maybe the US should think WHY this is and fix it. And in saying this, I am also trying to underline a point that terrorism has nothing with religion, but only with human nature. If America were Afghanistan and vice-versa, I assure you that you would find American Baptist terrorist groups trying to mess with Afghanistan because they're so rich and control the world with their money.

    Anybody who believes that terrorism exists because the terrorists are just "mean" or "evil" by nature or simply because their religion calls them to do so is ignorant. This is basic human reaction to angst. When a people feel oppressed they will always have angst against you.

    In conclusion, the two actual solutions that would solve terrorism are either:

    1- America should share the wealth with all the world and stop exploiting other nations by corrupt ways and turning blind eyes to injustice that occurs only because it is in their benefit. And also be a leader in trying to understand ideas and different points of view.

    2- Take terrorism for what it is and live with it while continuing to exploit the 3rd world countries. If you are rich because of some sort of injustice and all the others around you are poor, don't expect to be loved. So don't complain about terrorism and just live with it as a tax of being wealthy and rich. Nobody hates the rich kid.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  13. azaarea

    real terrorist are those who killed millions of people in Iraq,Afghan ifcourse christians

    February 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Trish

      So, you're assuming that all our soldiers in the Middle East are Christians? Please explain how you know that...please provide is your empirical data to back up your assertion. And then please explain how you would know that, as your assertion subtly suggests, that all Christians want to kill Muslims? Or want to kill at all?

      February 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  14. MoHam

    ISLAM is the real problem. As long as we ignore the elephant in the room world will be chaotic place. Kill Islam once and for all.
    Visit and aware 'faith freedom dot org' 'the religion of peace dot com'

    February 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • KOXAWY

      People like YOU are the real problem!

      February 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  15. Trish

    Skeptics are posting that prayer does not change things. My question to you is: is prayer to be confused with magic? with Santa Claus? A resounding NO.

    Here's a thought from a CS Lewis, great thinker, scholar, and staunch atheist who went 180 to believe in and heartily follow Christ: "Prayer doesn't change God; it changes me."

    What does that look like regarding praying for terrorists (and I'm including so-called "Christian" abortion clinic bombers, in case you assume I'd leave them out)?

    Prayer does not "magically" make me LIKE them or their actions; rather, it softens my heart to have compassion for a human being who is brainwashed with murderous hatred and births in me a desire to see them go 180 out.

    And then...I get to face the 2×4 board that is in MY eye, to paraphrase Scriptures. What have I been doing or saying or thinking that does not demonstrate the unconditional love of Christ? Plenty. Even when I think I'm being such a so-called "good person."

    February 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • SaneAtheist

      My question to you is , do you have any more evidence for viability of intercessory prayer than say for "magic" or "Santa Claus"? Actually , no.
      All this amounts to is a futile attempt of the deluded trying to stop the deranged.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • Trish

      @ SaneAtheist

      Without any sarcasm intended whatsoever, I'm interested to find out your definition of "deluded" and if you apply that to any and every person who believes in God or in anything spiritual. To be honest, it sounds like you're taking quite a high-ground, thinking yourself to be superior to so many of us who believe in Someone or even Something. I would imagine it takes a lot of effort and energy to wonder if other people around you are deluded and not quite "together." And I wonder if it wouldn't keep me in fear all the time...what if my pharmacist or doctor or payroll manager is "deluded." Can she/he take care of me properly? How could I ever trust anyone to help me live life as it is?

      Again, please don't take this as any attack on you or as a facetious question. I AM genuinely curious.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • some emo kid

      Trish, that's an awful lot of words to put into the guy's mouth. He didn't say any of those things. Sounds as if you really want to believe that people who disagree with you are stupid and arrogant. My example today will be Muslims: when they tell you that only they have the true religion and everyone else is a servant of Shaitan, don't you feel a bit superior? Poor Muslims, caught up in their false web of devil worship, blind to the truth? Or do you think, my God, what if they are right? Do you search your soul every time you see an image of Buddha, wondering if you are missing the One Truth that will save you? Of course not; you think they are fools who deny the truth. That's kind of like how we feel about you. Well, you wanted to know, didn't you?

      February 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  16. Normby

    The problem is – this is no different than the murderers who "pray", and let their children die, instead of going to the doctor.
    Joseph – no fear here, just rational, reality based, understanding. Quit making up lame excuses to defend this silliness.
    LLB: "Try it"? Just as soon as any religion is validated by true facts and accurate evidence.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  17. LATerry

    There's a reason we've been fighting terrorism with "materials means" as opposed to "imaginary means" has never been proven to work:

    "Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer"

    February 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Trish

      The good thing about prayer, though, is that my hands do not have to be clasped. I can be working as hard as I can to help someone in a physical sense, while praying mentally. My prostrating myself and thinking THAT is the way God hears my prayers is false and frustrating.

      There definitely are misconceptions of what prayer is all about. And it's sad that Christians themselves have generated and perpetuated these.

      February 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Shellysmom

      Perhaps that should read, "Two hands can work because a thousand are clasped in prayer."

      February 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Your method works….we are to pray without ceasing!

      February 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Sterling Archer

      "Two hands can work because a thousand are clasped in prayer."

      What ever fantasy floats your boat.

      "The Christian god can easily be pictured as virtually the same god as the many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites." – Thomas Jefferson

      February 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Trish,, how do you know that god can hear you with out clasping your hands...he wants those put together or else he will not answer. What if he wants you to sacrifice a goat or sheep... maybe that will work.

      February 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  18. Xiaomin Feador

    As much as I doubted it would have any effect on the current situation, but I guess it wouldn't make an matters worse.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  19. TOM

    Ancient stories are supposed to be teaching tools. There is nothing wrong with ancient texts when they are taught properly and one receives its message in a holy and pure manner and acts on those teachings accordingly with peace and love.

    February 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  20. Virologist

    Terrorist – is that the word that is banned?

    February 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Virologist

      Apparently not, nothing else in my post was offensive, the filter must be looking for certain word combinations. Perhaps Christian being too close to the word terrorist or something like that is causing the problem

      February 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Reality

      • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

      • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

      Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

      Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".

      And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.

      Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
      1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
      Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
      – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
      c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
      sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
      ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
      t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
      va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
      ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
      jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
      p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
      o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
      There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.
      okay words that you might not expect to be filtered....!!!

      Here's a word to add to the banned list: co-co-on
      whether it's c-oc, or co-on, this is ridiculous

      February 25, 2011 at 12:52 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.