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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. Rich

    Yes, good plan. "Pray" , as in talk to yourself and only yourself, and hope it has a casual effect on someone else. Good luck with that.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • American Infidel

      "Amen" brother

      February 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. cadema

    This is ultimately what most of our great spiritual and moral teachers have understood and taught. Responding to hatred with love will, in the end, be the only way humanity will ever really improve. The American Christian Right that cheered a violent response to the violence of terrorism does not understand it's own religion. It may be a common sense response, it's just not a Christian one.

    "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -MLK Jr.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  3. :P

    Seriously how stupid can people get!?
    -Pray for your families health, the economy to get better, or at least a world where i can get a full tank of gas with out spending a whole pay check. But to pray for a terrorist???? um i pray that they die nice and quick and leave this earth harming no one but themselves. ( Hows that for statement in the name of our holly god!)

    February 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  4. fsmgroupie

    If you are going to pray for these murdering terrorists whom your god allows to exist then don't you think you should at least pray for the 30,000 children that your god allows to die every day from starvation?

    February 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Rico

      Of course you should.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • Weignin

      And the 3000 aborted babies per day

      February 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  5. Jim Shelley

    I like this idea very much.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  6. Holy Crusader

    What about the Christian terrorists, like George W. Bush, Tom Delay, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, John Boehner, Newt, Rush and the rest of the GOP gang. Can we pray for them instead?

    February 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Rico

      Please do. Atlhough, I fail to see the moral equivalency. There *are* Christianist terrorists, but they are more people like Timothy McVeigh, Scott Roeder, Michael Collins, etc.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  7. cadema

    This is ultimately what most of our great spiritual and moral teachers have understood and taught. Responding to hatred with love will, in the end, be the only way humanity will ever really improve. The American Christian Right that cheered a violent response to the violence of terrorism does not understand it's own religion. It may be a common sense response, it's just not a Christian one.

    "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." -MLK Jr.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • wonderwall

      Best post cadema!

      February 25, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  8. HenkV

    II'll sign up. And I'll pray that Osama quickly goes to hell, so that he can hook up with his 73 Virginians (with thanks to Robin Williams for this one).

    February 25, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  9. johnnyleen

    Can we pray for people not on the list? Like the past few popes who covered up the child abuse problems in the catholic church?

    February 25, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • wonderwall

      Sure you could. Couldn't hurt.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • HenkV

      You can try. Females and adult males however should not apply.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  10. Kym

    The Sunday after 9/11 I asked my pastor if we could pray as a church for the terrorists and their families and I was greeted by a blank stare. His response almost 10 yrs later still baffles me. Ever since then I pray for all instead of saying the pledge of allegience. "I pledge allegiance to God; Thank you Lord for allowing us to live in a country that is so free; Please stop all of the killing, hatred, and violence and turn all eyes back to you; In your precious name I pray, AMEN

    February 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  11. Erin

    Of course real Christians should pray for their enemies. That's what their savior taught them to do, and it's certainly better than condemning their enemies. Good will toward dangerous people doesn't have to be mutually exclusive from self-protection.

    February 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  12. ib6ub9

    Hahahaha. I thought this was the Onion News Network article. What a complete waste of these people's time. Then again, at least if they are spending their time praying they won't have as much time to reproduce.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  13. wonderwall

    I understand the source – turn the other cheek, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Following through is the hard part. I'd rather pray for those who risk their lives trying to defeat these enemies and sign up to protect us. Pray for our leaders that they would have wisdom and that justice would be done. Pray that our own government does not undermine us as citizens and to use good judgment and not follow party politics. Prayers, good thoughts, good vibes, you call it what you will.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • wonderwall

      Thinking more about this – the story of Buddha – he achieves several stages of enlightenment through different elements. Perhaps the ability to pray for one's enemy is also 'easier' if you were to advance to another stage. As you grow spiritually, you will perceive differently and to pray for a difficult thing – less difficult.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  14. haha

    my bad has about 600 friends on facebook... can we get an article on CNN too?

    February 25, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  15. Ray

    ...well this should finally prove that god doesn't exist.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • American Infidel

      Only to intelligent people. The easter bunny chasers will always be just that. No amount of proof will prove anything. Galileo was imprisoned by the church for such blasphemous remarks such as the Earth was NOT the center of the universe. Yet, he was proven right. These folks believe in books that were written BY MAN, the same men who thought the world was flat, Earth was all there was and sea monsters inhabited the edges of this flat world. I have a brother, who is convinced that the Earth is 6000 years old, dinosaurs never existed (the fossils are fabricated using whale bones according to him) and Jonah lived in a fish for 3 days.

      February 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Ubiquitous

      i have a friend who believes geology and carbon dating are also false and he also believes dinosaurs never existed

      February 25, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  16. JAF

    REVISION: While I respect that christians are practicing what they preach (although I consider "praying for the enemy" an ironic application of the faith). I find it hard to embrace an enemy who trains to kill based on their own religious beliefs. Service members are engaged in war and sacrificing their lives to serve and defend the freedom of this country. A freedom that terrorists train to detroy based on religiontheir relgiong. A war based on relgion negates the meaning of religion itseld. It's completely hypcritical and by inserting our religious beliefs into that equation we are only adding fuel to the fure. At the end of the day, terrorists are killers. They don't deserve a prayer, they deserve to be brought to justice. A justice defined by their own standards.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • JAF

      While I respect that christians are practicing what they preach (although I consider "praying for the enemy" an ironic application of the faith), I find it hard to embrace an enemy who trains to kill based on their own religious beliefs. Service members are engaged in war and sacrificing their lives to serve and defend the freedom of this country. At the end of the day, terrorists are killers. They don't deserve a prayer, they deserve to be brought to justice. A justice defined by their own standards.

      February 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Rico

      Christ's point, as I understand it, is that *none* of us deserve grace. No one is saying terrorists *deserve* to be prayed for.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  17. JAF

    While I respect that christians are practicing what they preach (although I consider "praying for the enemy" an ironic application of the faith). I find it hard to embrace an enemy who trains to kill based on their own religious beliefs. Service members are engagedbased on religion is completely hypcritical and by inserting our religious beliefs into that equation we are only adding fuel to the fure. At the end of the day, terrorists are killers. They don't deserve a prayer, they deserve to be brought to justice. A justice defined by their own standards.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  18. Wiseone

    Love your enemies, and your enemies will KILL you.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  19. Bubbashrimp2

    I pray that he dies a very painful death and goes to hell and is frozen in dantes perpertual fires of the 7th level.

    February 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Reality

    A favorite prayer of Christians starts off with "Angel of god, my guardian dear". It is all part of
    the Great Angelic Con Game:

    Joe Smith had his Moroni.

    Jehovah Witnesses have their Jesus /Michael the archangel, the first angelic being created by God;

    Mohammed had his Gabriel (this "tin-kerbell" got around).

    Jesus and his family had Michael, Gabriel, and Satan, the latter being a modern day dem-on of the de-mented.

    The Abraham-Moses myths had their Angel of Death and other "no-namers" to do their dirty work or other assorted duties.

    Contemporary biblical and religious scholars have relegated these "pretty wingie thingies" to the myth pile. We should do the same to include deleting all references to them in our religious operating manuals. Doing this will eliminate the prophet/profit/prophecy status of these founders and put them where they belong as simple humans just like the rest of us.
    Some added references to "tink-erbells".

    "Latter-day Saints also believe that Michael the Archangel was Adam (the first man) when he was mortal, and Gabriel lived on the earth as Noah."

    Apparently hallu-cinations did not stop with Joe Smith.

    newadvent.org/cathen/07049c.htm

    "The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity; pagans, like Menander and Plutarch (cf. Euseb., "Praep. Evang.", xii), and Neo-Platonists, like Plotinus, held it. It was also the belief of the Babylonians and As-syrians, as their monuments testify, for a figure of a guardian angel now in the British Museum once decorated an As-syrian palace, and might well serve for a modern representation; while Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, says: "He (Marduk) sent a tutelary deity (cherub) of grace to go at my side; in everything that I did, he made my work to succeed."

    Catholic monks and Dark Age theologians also did their share of hallu-cinating:
    "TUBUAS-A member of the group of angels who were removed from the ranks of officially recognized celestial hierarchy in 745 by a council in Rome under Pope Zachary. He was joined by Uriel, Adimus, Sabaoth, Simiel, and Raguel."

    And tin-ker- bells go way, way back:

    "In Zoroastrianism there are different angel like creatures. For example each person has a guardian angel called Fravashi. They patronize human being and other creatures and also manifest god’s energy. Also, the Amesha Spentas have often been regarded as angels, but they don't convey messages, but are rather emanations of Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord", God); they appear in an abstract fashion in the religious thought of Zarathustra and then later (during the Achaemenid period of Zoroastrianism) became personalized, associated with an aspect of the divine creation (fire, plants, water...)."
    "The beginnings of the biblical belief in angels must be sought in very early folklore. The gods of the Hitti-tes and Canaanites had their supernatural messengers, and parallels to the Old Testament stories of angels are found in Near Eastern literature. "

    "The 'Magic Papyri' contain many spells to secure just such help and protection of angels. From magic traditions arose the concept of the guardian angel. "

    For added information see the review at:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel

    February 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Wow

      noone is going to read something that long sheesh ,., to much time on ur hands ?

      February 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jefe S

      That was dif-ficult to fo-llow, with the di-stra-ction of all of the hy-phens in st-range pla-ces. Seriously though, I don't even know what your point was – that we should delete all references to angels and to tinkerbell? Or likely, not your point, but wherever you copied that from without attribution. Also, "see wikipedia" for further info? C'mon...

      What's really funny is that the novel you posted seems to be saying we should delete all references to angels, then proceeds to describe how virtually every civilization we know of has had references to angels.

      February 25, 2011 at 4:38 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.

      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".

      February 25, 2011 at 11:33 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.