Ministry changes name to Campus Jihad for Christ
ORLANDO — In an effort to broaden their international appeal, Campus Crusade for Christ, the venerable evangelism organization founded by Bill and Vonette Bright 52 years ago, has changed its name to Campus Jihad for Christ.
“When the ministry started in 1951, ‘crusade’ was a bold, evocative word,” says Campus Jihad spokesman Tony Ulkes. “Now it has negative overtones and kind of a fifteenth-century ring to it, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, where we’re expanding. But ‘jihad’ is considered by young people to be new and fresh, and it means virtually the same thing as ‘crusade’. So we’re changing with the times.”
But some observers call the change a sure way to alienate their core constituency.
“This is a grave miscalculation,” says church history professor Timothy Wilds of the University of Florida, Miami. “I’m not sure they’ll win any more converts, and it’s quite possible they’ll anger a lot of long-time supporters.”
The impetus for the change came as the ministry found it increasingly difficult to set up debates with Muslim groups on university campuses because of the ‘crusade’ moniker. And students recently introduced to the ministry often assumed it was started after September 11, 2001, in response to terrorism.
The name changes will flow down the employee chart. Campus ministers will now be called campus mujahideen, or holy warriors. Regional directors will be known as fedayeen Christ. Fedayeen means “one who sacrifices himself for a cause” in Arabic.
“With no disrespect meant to Mohammed, we’d like students to join the true jihad — the jihad of Christ,” says Ulkes.
The change will also solve a small but consistent problem: the inevitable handful of students who joined the group thinking it was the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medievalist group which holds fairs and festivals in the spirit of Olde England.
“We’re all happy to be rid of the ‘crusade’ label,” says Ulkes. “This is a new day for us.” •