Campus Crusade for Christ Blamed for Death

     ORLANDO (CN) – A young evangelist was murdered on a mission to Kazakhstan, in which his team had to “speak in code” and “pose” as having other jobs, and the Campus Crusade for Christ failed to warn him of the legal and actual dangers of the work, his parents claim in court.
     Travis Eiler was killed in a hotel room in Kazakhstan in December 2011. He was suffocated with a plastic bag.
     His father, Eric Eiler, sued the nonprofit religious group for his son’s wrongful death, in Orange County Court.
     Campus Crusade for Christ’s mission is to “win, build and send Christ-centered multiplying disciples who launch spiritual movements,” according to its website.
     The group sent Travis Eiler, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Shymkent, in southern Kazakhstan, a region that is 70 percent Islamic.
     Eric Eiler claims the Campus Crusade knew Christians were in the minority there and it would be dangerous for crusaders: “Due to the nature of the mission based, in part on the environment, the participants were to speak in code,” the complaint states. “For example, ‘ice cream socials’ were not events where ice cream was served; rather, they were organized events where Christianity was observed. Likewise, the participants posed as English teacher at various universities.”
     Travis’ job was to “declare the glory of Jesus to each student on every campus in Shymkent and spark a gospel awakening in Central Asia and the world,” the complaint states, citing the Crusade’s Central Asia Strategic Plan 2011.
     Eiler said he believes participants had to find their own apartments and raise their own money to fund the trip.
     The timing was bad. In October 2011, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev had signed two laws restricting freedom for religious minorities.
     The laws required religious groups to register before carrying out religious activity, and no person could register unless he had been invited to do missionary work by a registered organization, according to the lawsuit.
     Eiler claims the Crusade did not register or make its presence known before or after the laws were passed, nor did it take sufficient measures for the safety of its members already there.
     Eiler claims his son was killed as a result of the Crusade’s negligence.
     The Campus Crusade “intentionally, deliberately and with reckless disregard for his health and safety, sent Travis on the religious mission to Shymkent,” according to the complaint.
     Travis’s parents seek damages for wrongful death, negligence, emotional distress and loss of consortium, and funeral expenses.
     They are represented by Carolyn Salzmann, of Winter Park, Fla.

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