DRP (Maldives current President's Party) Attacks ex Foreign Minister over Joshua Project
Presidential spokesperson Mohamed Hussein Shareef (Mundhu) has accused opposition politician Dr Ahmed Shaheed of “knowing the details” surrounding Christian organisation the Joshua Project operating in the Maldives.
The statement, made at a Sunday press briefing by the Maumoon 2008 campaign, is one in a series of recent allegations by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) that opposition groups seek to spread other religions.
Dr Shaheed confirmed he was aware of the Joshua Project, and said that upon discovering their activities, he had called them to the attention of the President. Shaheed added he is “disappointed no action was taken to stop the activities” of the Joshua Project once he had alerted Gayoom.
Shaheed “Knows The Details”
In a direct attack, Mundhu accused Dr Shaheed of “know[ing] the details of the Joshua Project”.
“Joshua Project is a research project in which billions of dollars have been spent,” Mundhu said. “Manuals and training have been conducted in Maldives...We have evidence to show that.”
According to the Joshua Project’s online mission statement, the organisation seeks to highlight ethnic groups throughout the world with few Christian members, to encourage “pioneer church-planting movements”.
“Dr Shaheed knows that Maldives is ranked number one in ‘the most difficult place to establish a Church’ and ‘second to establish a Buddhist temple’,” Mundhu said.
Dr Shaheed’s knowledge of this type of organisation is “reason to believe there has been work done in this country by the opposition” to encourage the establishment of other religions in the country, said Mundhu.
Shaheed was the running mate of independent candidate Dr Hassan Saeed in the first round of presidential elections, but the pair are now backing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) in the runoff round against Gayoom on 28 October.
Shaheed was formerly foreign minister under Gayoom, but quit last August, citing slow progress on democratic reforms.
Report To The President
Shaheed confirmed he knew about the project. “I gave all the information I have about the Joshua Project to the president on 12 September 2004,” he said.
But he said he is “disappointed” the alert was not followed up by action.
“I told the president the Joshua Project has listed Maldives as priority country to establish a church and begin evangelical work... I reported to the president there was a deliberate attempt to spread Christianity,” Dr Shaheed said. “All the information is with Mundhu and the president.”
However, he said, “the organisation does not draw links between political parties. It is an external project.”
President Gayoom’s running mate Thasmeen Ali said at Sunday’s press conference, “What we’ve been saying is that because of some of these activities, we have reasons to believe they [opposition parties] are trying to spread Christianity.”
According to the constitution, all Maldivians must be Muslim to retain citizenship.
But asked whether the DRP has grounds for legal action against opposition groups over the issue, Thasmeen could not confirm, saying instead, “We’re not a court.”
Mundhu added, “Even though it is in the constitution [that every Maldivian must be a Muslim], there are undercurrents and influences that could affect the country…. We don’t want such influences in the country.”
In response to similar allegations, MDP religious council president Adam “BA” Naseem said in a press conference on Sunday that other religions will not enter the country under an MDP government.
“I am 100 per cent sure a church will not be built,” he said. “That a church may be built in Maldives is dangerous, but it is more dangerous that Maumoon is distorting religion.”
Series Of Attacks
The allegation that opposition parties attempt to spread other religions has become a key aspect of the DRP's campaign ahead of a second round of presidential elections, due on 28 October.
The DRP on Saturday said the MDP must “refute with supporting evidence” the DRP’s claims it aims to spread Christianity.
But in a televised press briefing on Saturday, the MDP counter-accused the DRP of itself spreading secularism.
Previously, Mundhu alleged James McGrath, who has advised the MDP presidential campaign on behalf of the UK Conservative Party, had “links to a movement to change the Maldives into a multi-religious society”.
And last week, DRP deputy media manager held up the image of the frangipani flower – the MDP’s campaign emblem – and said it was “found in Christian churches”.
But the MDP states in its manifesto it will seek to strengthen Islam as the sole Maldivian religion, as stated in the country’s constitution.
MDP candidate Anni will now face Gayoom in a second round of elections, after no candidate gained over 50 per cent in the first round vote on 8 October.