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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. Northern2011

    What a load of bull crap.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Realities for all here found to be very interesting and very informative.
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    February 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Muneef

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      108. A man is the shepherd of his family
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      (Bukhari, Nikah, 91)
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      Search for more with googling (Consciousness of Responsibility – Ismail Hakki Unal
      Consciousness of Responsibility ... the importance of the consciousness of responsibility is emphasized; while attributing responsibility to all sane and ...)lastprophet.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  3. airwx

    "I know it's a common trend among some religeous to assume what those who believe differently. "

    I paraphrased you...and our comments crossed. I did read the study, which is statistically a wash. Structurally the study leaves too many loopholes.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Igor

      "I did read the study, which is statistically a wash. "

      Please name statistical or methodological flaws.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Igor

      Incidentally, i think the idea of a personal god who listens to our direct and often conflicting requests and acts upon them is ridiculous and does not require a study. But the Templeton Foundation determined otherwise and now you have an answer. I am sure if you replicated it you would find similar results. It is not very hard to study the effect of prayer unless you assert at the outset that it cannot be studied at which point quit claiming that it works as a fact.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • airwx

      The question you pose is simple to answer, but you will not like the answer. While you can quantify the general conditions, that is a single type of surgery, the number of patients in each resultant group, etc, you cannot quantify prayer. How do you judge is the person who is praying actually knows how to/wants to/ or is effective the act of praying? And as a CABG survivor...I know a lot about this particular surgery.

      I am glad you read Chesterton.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Magic

      airwx,

      "How do you judge is the person who is praying actually knows how to/wants to/ or is effective the act of praying?"

      Are you saying that there are expert pray-ers?.... that this god only responds to perfectly constructed pleadings?... that one needs to search for a pray-er with a good track record to pray for a certain thing?

      February 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  4. Thomas

    "Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, 'Why couldn't we drive [the demon] out?' He replied, 'Because you have so little faith. If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"

    Ten years of bombing, occupying, and reconstructing have been like the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel dancing around their altar. In the tradition of Elijah, it's time for the followers of Jesus to call down Holy Spirit fire from heaven.

    February 25, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Igor

      @Senoy: Look up the Templeton Foundation study which had participants pray for others recovering from bypass surgery. It divided those prayed for into three groups, those prayed for , those not prayed for and those prayed for who were aware of that fact. There was no difference in recovery rates for the first 2 groups, however the third group actually fared worse in terms of post surgical complications. Now, I am not claiming that prayer is harmful in this regard, since even the study did not claim that and it's a ridiculous assertion to make for something that is shown ineffectual. I think the moral considerations of extolling something that amounts to doing nothing as a virtue make it harmful. Of course, as I said before, prayer to Yahweh, Zeus, Jesus or or the Tooth Fairy should be freely allowed, but criticized accordingly if extolled as a virtue over actual good deeds.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • senoy

      The problem with the Templeton study is that it did find statistically significant differences for those that were prayed for vs. those that weren't. 18% of prayed for people who didn't know they were prayed for had serious consequences as opposed to 13% who were not prayed for. The authors chalk this up to 'chance', but if those kinds of results can be skewed by 'chance,' then aren't we forced to question the validity of the study? If a study finds something, but since the results seem wrong it is ascribed to chance, then either the study is flawed or the conclusions must be accepted. If prayer does indeed 'harm' people as this study suggests, then we either need a materialist explanation or we have to investigate the possibility of a non-material agent.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Igor

      "you cannot quantify prayer."

      So you are saying prayer cannot be studied? Therefore, whether it works or not is a matter of pure faith at which point stop claiming that it works. I understand some want to have their cake and eat it too, but as I said above, i didn't think prayer needed to be studied to determine that it likely doesn't work. I find the concept illogical and full of paradox. In fact,l this goes deeper then the determination regarding the existence of a deity. Before claiming prayer works you must postulate a personal god who actually cares one way or the other about individual requests. That is the concept I find ridiculous.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • airwx

      Yes I did come to an understanding of a personal God. You did not. Great, we understand each other on that point. You have never had a Doctor look at 2 xrays side by side and exclaim " You people from that church do this to me all the time", referring to bomes that he set at the time of surgery (visible in xray1) being in a differnent place (in xray2) and alieviating the need for rebreaking the wrist. Oh, yeah... My bones were being held in place by an external fixater that was screwed into the bones in my hand, my wrist and my arm so the could not have just "shifted". May mean nothing to you, but the 730 prople who prayed for me just might have had a bigger influence than you would think.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  5. Igor

    'Religious person gives 100 million dollars to cancer research."

    Nonsense. This will be a deed i will applaud, unlike praying which does nothing. Try not to assume so much about others. I know it's a common trend among some religeous to assume what those who believe differently. And then when they are disagreed with it means that we hate the religious. Constructive criticism is not hate.

    "Emergents and social justice Christians have been espousing prayer and understanding for terrorists for quite some time while working to eradicate the poverty and human rights issues that encourage them to proceed down this destructive path. It's a great idea."

    Only one of these is a good idea? Can you guess which one?

    February 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • senoy

      Heh, you haven't been on the internet long have you? Go look up the article about the Christian couple that won the lottery and gave it all away. Within ten posts, someone was slamming churches as uncharitable and we needed to do away with religion. The couple were called idiots by twenty posts down. There was a political flamewar for a bit and it went out of control. Haters got to hate. It's not exactly like your 'prayer does nothing' comment isn't particularly hateful. It might do nothing, but it hurts nothing either. There's no reason to bring it into the conversation except to just point out that the people are wrong in your opinion. It's not constructive criticism, because it doesn't attempt to construct anything, only destroy. Constructive criticism would be 'You should also donate to refugee funds or groups that fight poverty in other countries." Simply saying, "What you're doing is worthless." is not constructive in the least. It's just hatin'.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Igor

      "It's not exactly like your 'prayer does nothing' comment isn't particularly hateful."

      How is it hateful? So far there is no evidence whatsoever to demonstrate that prayer does anything tangible. In fact, a recent study demonstrates quite the contrary. At least I'm not claiming these guys are blasphemers like the other "good Christian" above.

      "There's no reason to bring it into the conversation except to just point out that the people are wrong in your opinion. "

      I think it's hurtful to praise praying as something good. Praying, to the extent it does nothing but may make one feel like they are doing the good works, should not be extolled as a virtue. Now this is just my opinion, and not necessarily a correct one but not particularly hateful since i don't think people who pray for something like that are bad people or should be stopped from doing so.

      Now is the fact that I pointed out that studies indicate that prayer does nothing and may have the opposite negative effect, and further that extolling something that is ineffective as a virtue is a bad thing qualify as constructive criticism?

      February 25, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • airwx

      I am oft' amazed by anyone saying "you don't know me" anywhere in the same post as " unlike prayer which does nothing".
      The person who categorizes anothers act in a negative light indeed lets us know you. Consider your later judgement "only one of these is a good idea? You have made your reasoning known. You are saying you are not a person of faith..to which I would ask you to ponder the following;

      Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.

      G.K. Chesterton, 1909

      February 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • senoy

      Saying that prayer is actually harmful might be more constructive because you feel that it's a very negative thing. If there actually is a study that proves that prayer is harmful, I for one would be interested in reading it. I would consider that a major score for the theists because a materialist viewpoint would most likely conjecture no impact at all. Having a negative impact on outcomes would imply something non-material. Sociologically speaking, prayer doesn't seem to impact giving rates or volunteerism rates negatively, if anything, the reverse is true. Religious people do seem to donate more time, money and percent of income to charity, so saying prayer somehow impacts these things would seem to defy most evidence to the contrary. Regardless, if you really do feel that praying for someone is going to negatively impact the world, I would remove you from the ranks of 'hater' and move you to the ranks of 'mistaken.'

      February 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • airwx

      Our comments crossed.. the study you refer to on CABG patients is interesting, but is statistically a wash.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • senoy

      I would also definitely like to state for the record that our 'you're a blasphemer' friend up above also seems pretty hatin' to me. I don't think that the haters only exist on one side of the issue. They're on both sides equally and I wouldn't care to conjecture which side is more vitriolic.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Igor

      I am oft' amazed by anyone saying "you don't know me" anywhere in the same post as " unlike prayer which does nothing".

      Did you not read the part where I told you there are studies (i.e recent Templeton Foundation study) which indicate that prayer is ineffective?

      "You are saying you are not a person of faith..to which I would ask you to ponder the following;

      Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.

      G.K. Chesterton, 1909"

      I pondered Chesterton before and for practical purposes of living in a real world and having to make pragmatic decisions with real consequences, rejection of materialistic view is useful only for philosophical discussions.

      "The person who categorizes anothers act in a negative light indeed lets us know you."
      I think murdering, stealing and cruelty are wrong (negative), what does that tell you about me? Now where did I say, in so many words, "you don't know me?"

      February 25, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  6. fanta

    I have always been a daring writer...so here goes.....The question is...all personal animosities aside....would places in the middle east such as saudi arabia...libya and egypt,etc....be better run by people like OBL than the oppressive tyrants there at present ?

    February 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Thomas

      It's a worthy question. The answer is, "No." The evidence is Somalia and Afghanistan under OBL ideology when it was at its purest shortly before 9-11.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  7. senoy

    Haven't you guys learned about the internet yet? Haters gotta hate. Seriously, look at any of the belief blog posts. If the headline is 'Religious person gives 100 million dollars to cancer research.' The first comment is 'If it weren't for religion, we wouldn't have cancer. Religion sucks.' This will then be followed by "No, you suck." and eventually you get into a pseudo-philosophical spiel that displays an elementary school understanding of either the teleological argument or the problem of evil and everyone leaves feeling smug.

    I think this is a great idea. Emergents and social justice Christians have been espousing prayer and understanding for terrorists for quite some time while working to eradicate the poverty and human rights issues that encourage them to proceed down this destructive path. It's a great idea.

    February 25, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  8. kramses86

    This is BLASPHEMOUS IGNORANCE!!!!!! Praying for them will do... Nothing!

    Praying that Christ will watch over those who are under the control or fear of those who wish to do them harm makes sense though.

    If you read the Bible... You are aware that hatred, terrorism, and evil will Always exist until Christ comes back again. So praying that Bin Laden has a change of heart is a bit unnecessary. We should pray that, we as individuals have the strength, to live a life without fear and that others can do the same.

    February 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Igor

      This is like arguing who would win a fight between a unicorn and the Easter Bunny.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • kramses86

      >Igor> are you saying its wrong to have religious beliefs? This article (I'm assuming) was directed to those of faith.
      So, you may not be a believer but, You can surely see where this article is coming from.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Igor

      ">Igor> are you saying its wrong to have religious beliefs? "

      No. I'm all for anyone having a religious belief no matter how silly. I'm also for anyone anyone being able to criticize a religious belief no matter how rational. That's the point of this great country. I suppose you didn't even realize how ironic your comment is after saying, "This is BLASPHEMOUS IGNORANCE!!!!!! Praying for them will do... Nothing!"

      "So, you may not be a believer but, You can surely see where this article is coming from."

      Of course I do. Given the prevalence of religion most non-theists were believers at least through their early years and know very well what that means.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • cadema

      You have absolutely no sense of grace... which is at the heart of Christianity. I'm not sure what religion you're participating in each Sunday.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Igor

      @Cadema: Who are you addressing?

      February 25, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • cadema

      I was addressing kramses86.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • jonathan

      Bless them that curse you, pray for them that dispitefully misuse you....this blasphemous nonsense is what Jesus calls being perfect ;;;as in Matthew 5:44-48...

      February 27, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  9. Milton Simon Pires

    Cool ! But I was just wondering wether a terrorist woud pray for me... Milton Pires, Brazil

    February 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  10. LE

    I think this is a thoughtful article. For the most part, I am not religious, but I think prayer helps mostly the person praying to understand things more clearly and see a sort of sense in all of the world. Like meditation. It cleanses the mental palate. And no one was ever hurt by others sending out loving and thoughtful energy 🙂

    February 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  11. DoodleSheep

    I adopted a goat. Then I blew it up.

    February 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  12. cadema

    An ideology that responds to hatred with hatred, violence with violence is understandable. Fighting and killing the Hitlers and Bin Ladins of the world may be important work. However, it's really just treating the symptom.

    An ideology that responds to hatred with love and "turn the other cheek" is treating the disease.

    February 25, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  13. Sal

    Don't forget that religion has been the cause of many wars throughout the centuries. Fighting religion with more religion is futile! 

    February 25, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • weasel

      No religion was the cause of one very long war (Crusades and Jihad) And when you look underneath that is shakey at best.

      All those wars still were over land, money, power and influence.

      Saying religion is the cause of war has never held up to logical scrutiny. Especially when you actually know history.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Igor

      "Saying religion is the cause of war has never held up to logical scrutiny."

      You are correct. Religion is not the single cause of any war. It merely provided a convenient and seeming irrefutable justification since all the other causes are subject to rational scrutiny.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • dystopiary

      The state has been the cause of wars through centuries, and it usually needs the co-option of religion to accomplish its aims. Christian vocabulary was often used for this civic religion; now it is the vocabulary of Western liberalism, of 'liberty' and 'prosperity'.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  14. saj

    the site same as osama bin laden , why do u want to attach his religion with him , what about the soldiers in U.S and european armies they are all christians and your ex president said the war in iraq was crusade so does christ says to kill in the name of state or army think about it in past century U.S and its allies EUROPE & ISRAEL has killed 10 times more innocents than al qaida

    February 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • jonathan

      Revelation 6:14-17 .... 🙁

      February 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  15. MrMajestik

    OMG ...you sheepeople are complete Id!ots

    February 25, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • jonathan

      That's the whole idea of Christianity ...we discovered that we were complete idiots without God who sent us Jesus Christ to live in us to carry out his will..I consider myself chiefest among the dummies ... .....for this reason God created a special condition for me...I received the engrafted word...which is able to build me up and give me an inheritance among all them that are sanctified ... 🙂

      February 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  16. Sarah Caldwell

    How excuse can we as Christians give not to do this?

    February 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • jonathan

      I can give you a great reason. while the idea is a great one...and it could work as a great teaching tool for Christians.the fact is every Muslim is our enemy..not just the ones on the list...thought they are the most direct threat...I care more for the billion point two hundred million Muslims than for the 600 some sons of belial on the list..they are condemned already..

      February 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Sceptic

    They don't have Christian terrorists?
    FAILURE.
    Not to mentioned biased.

    February 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Igor

      Of course not. The Christians prayed them away. How else would you explain sudden peace in Ireland. Years of negotiations and hard work? Nonsense.

      February 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  18. cadema

    Responding to hatred with love just might be the deepest and wisest of spiritual truths. The fact the so many on here scorn it and make fun of it is very discouraging. Not surprising, but discouraging none the less.

    February 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  19. JR

    Yeah, right, I'm reminded of something my old father used to say, "Crap in one hand and Pray in the other, See which fills first".

    February 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Yes, vitriol is FAR better than peaceful speech.
      And SO many choose to insult those who express their faith, per the first amendment.
      So, should we have the first amendment repealed? JUST to keep you happy?

      February 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • JD

      How did this post remotely suggest that the First Amendment should be repealed?

      February 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Igor

      "So, should we have the first amendment repealed? JUST to keep you happy?"

      No way, cause then the religious majority will just take over.and you won't even be able to comment about it on CNN boards.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  20. cadema

    This is 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 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 truly Christian one. Just because you attach the label "Christian" to something, it does not make it so. It may be that in most cases it may not be so.

    "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 4:49 pm |
    • weasel

      I am not going to argue with the idea, especially if Christians want to live by their creed and do this.

      But WW2 pretty much disagrees with every solution being peaceful.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • cadema

      Weasel, it's a valid point.

      However, if this "creed" had really been written on the hearts of the German people, they never would have followed Hitler and his nonsense to begin with. It's a chicken or the egg question. If we constantly argue the virtues of war, hatred, and violence, there will never be an end to it, and we'll ultimately blow ourselves into extinction.

      I may be an idealist, but I think I'll continue to believe in and argue the side of "love thine enemies." I figure Christ, MLK, Buddha, Ghandi, etc are descent company to keep.

      February 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • thes33k3r

      Will Buddha and Gandhi be keeping you company in heaven after this life has ended? If not, where are they?

      February 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • cadema

      thes33k3r,
      I'm not getting into a discussion on afterlife salvation. I'm talking about this-life moral teachings in regards to our enemies. In this, Buddha, Gandhi, and Christ are on the same page.

      But if you must know my own take, I don't believe anyone can say with certainty what comes after death. Believe what you will, but if you're certain of something that is impossible to know, then you're deluding yourself. And I can't conceive of a God that would send someone like Gandhi to hell while sending bigoted Joe Shmo to heaven because he happened to be born into a culture that taught him about Jesus.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • john

      cadema; I like what you had to say and am sure you know that not all Christians are people of vengence. The night of 911, I was at our "Men's Ministry" (my fellowship is conservitive evangelical) Our pastor that night in his opening prayer asked the usual blessings and strength for the families of the victims and then asked God to pour His Grace onto Osama Ben Ladin changing his heart from terrorism and even one day bringing him to salvation in Jesus. There were gasps from many in the room and yet many :AMENS". I thought to my self "now that is the prayer of a true Christian" We Christians do have a bad name out there, and with good reason. We have many baby christians who have not found their way to the foot of the cross yet. We have even more people who claim to be Christians that are so far from it. We have a lot of just plain wierd people who make things up as they go. Yet Jesus promised He would be with His Church till He returned. Keep looking UP.

      February 25, 2011 at 7:47 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.