Echso-Text: 22 Christian Families Executed in Afghanistan

I heard about it first on Thursday, February 26th, 2009 in the late afternoon. I was out cleaning up my minivan after an unusually messy week of kids, pop cans, and candy bar wrappers when my blackberry buzzed. A colleague was emailing me that 22 Christian families were being executed in Aghanistan and he was urging me to turn on the TV to see what I could find in the news. “Wow,” I said to myself, “that would be very sad.” I turned on the TV to scan the news services but found nothing related to the stories.

I googled “22 Christians Afghanistan” on my blackberry. There were results, to be sure, but none related to anything similar to a current event. My blackberry vibrated in my hand. Another friend, now forwarding the information to me via SMS, was asking me about this story. “Was it true?” I replied with a quick, “IDK,” and, leaving my minivan in the driveway, went into the house and popped open my laptop. A more extensive search again showed nothing relevant to today, but related hits about a 2007 incident in which 22 Korean short-term missionaries were held hostage.

The next day I was at the local university, studying, as my blackberry danced in its holster all morning long. People were sending me the message and urging me to pray. The actual text of the message was:

From: (Number Omitted) Msg: Please pray for 22 Christian misionary (sic) families that will be executed today in Afghanistan. Please spread to others fast.

By this time I was quite certain that it was a hoax. The most obvious reason was the total lack of news reports that related to an incident which typically would be pretty sensational. The message content also was suspect. It used the word “families,” which seemed odd, and misspelled the word “missionary.”

The amazing thing to me is how many times, in a four day period, I received this SMS text. I personally received it from over a dozen different phone numbers. Even more numerous were the emails asking me to verify the story (I work for a faith-based non-profit that sends people all the world). My blog, which is thematically tied to Christian missionary efforts, has received more comments on this story than any other (admittedly, a small number, but my blog is followed by about three people in a good month).

I think this shows the power of an emotionally charged hoax, spread via simple means, through a densely packed network. I am calling this an “echso-text” for “emotionally charged hoax spread organically” via (in this case) text messaging. I guess you could have an “echso-twitter” and we have all gotten “echso-email.” I like this term because it hints at the word “echo” and the latin-sounding “exo” (for ‘out,’ of course).

This story was certainly emotionally charged. I also think that the text message itself, by urging the reader to pass it on, contributed to its ability to spread. The fact that a precedent event involving Korean missionaries in Afghanistan also made the message somewhat more believable. The Christian community, particularly that segment involved in foreign missions, does tend to be somewhat dense. Yes, feel free to take that as an intentional double entendre. The web of relationships is tightly packed (sociologists call this a dense network), but this segment of people are often quick to believe what should probably be examined first.

I am sure that there have been many other similar echso-texts but this is the first one that I have been pulled into in this way.

25 Comments to “Echso-Text: 22 Christian Families Executed in Afghanistan”

  1. Peter deMello 31 January 2012 at 3:45 am #

    I got the message yesterday and it is the 30th January 2012,is is a cruel and sick joke .

  2. Babagata Ibrahim 1 December 2010 at 6:27 am #

    Today 1day of December 2010 I got a text asking for prayers for 22 christian families to be executed in Afaganistan is this story true.

  3. Frenzy 30 November 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Caught me too! Like most people, my first response was to send it out! I immediately put it to my profile on FB, and even started getting responses from my friends! Then, I googled, only to find this been around seems like a few years! But still a good reminder to pray for the missioneries around the world! Maybe our prayers in faith are helping some families!

  4. molly 30 November 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    i just got that text message 2day. lol

  5. Kelly 30 November 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    I just got this today as well. No doubt it is untrue, but a good reminder that we need to be praying for Christians around the world.

  6. Greg 30 November 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    I just got this text today, and the first thing I thought to myself is "that doesn't make sense, this must be a hoax." Before I forwarded it to anyone, I actually did RESEARCH. Maybe my assumptions make me appear cynical, but I think it makes me a whole lot smarter than the rest of the "dense" Christian population.

  7. lola21 30 November 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    same here i just got the message…. its still going around

  8. Bikerdave 30 November 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    just got this message too from a friend, but she texted (sms) back a few minutes later saying it may be a hoax. saved me the trouble of texting her telling her that!
    We do need to be careful about these things – be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, Jesus said. THere's noting unchristian about checking stuff out. There's plenty unchristian about being willingly gullible.
    – Bikerdave

  9. Amanda 30 November 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    I just received the message today on November 30th 2010! This is a horrible hoax if it is.

  10. Alex 30 November 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    I just got this message… O.o

  11. Charlotte 30 November 2010 at 9:53 am #

    The message is still going around and it started last year???
    Then again, the news on TV are very bad for reporting things like this, I mean they want the big stories and in all fairness Christains aren't exactly a big story are they? Plus the news don't look into a story unless some one gave them a "heads up" that it was happening.

  12. Connie Villarante 29 November 2010 at 12:15 am #

    If this is a joke, it's a bad one. Just the same, the prayers will not be in vain.

  13. Chris 13 March 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    Consolations to all who, like me, found it hard to pray without knowing more but also felt a little guilty for not forwarding it immediately. In retrospect now I think I learned something. I’m wondering if the Holy Spirit is going to help us pray about something that is not actually true or happening? He is the “Spirit of truth” after all. Of course, I sought God as to how to pray, but was not led at all to pray for that specific request. Gen. 50:20

  14. Jessica Lee 8 March 2009 at 2:51 am #

    I heard form my pastor at church today (March 8th).Well, I dunno whether it’s true or what. Say that it’s just a hoax, how on earth can he say it during the mass?
    Is it possible that the news is covered by the media?
    Hope that we’ll find the truth…
    If it’s really just a hoax, then it is an ugly one.

  15. marie 7 March 2009 at 11:05 pm #

    I received 2 texts with a request to pray. I was uneasy about it but said a prayer (sort of) anyway. I thought it would be world news if it was true.It has reached New Zealand where I live.Certainly emotionally charged and it makes me feel unchristian if I don’t immediately believe it. I haven’t forwarded it to anyone.

  16. Ian 7 March 2009 at 7:45 pm #

    I received this ECHSO text some time last month, not knowing at first it was a hoax, I urgently prayed. I now understand that it is a hoax, however, what I fail to understand is the motive behind this massive text. “Why?” Who would want to send a text message like this? Blatantly stating as factuality that “22 christian misionary families,” would be executed. Could this be some type of a sick joke? Perhaps a miscommunication between a group of individuals which sort of “snowballed” into what it is now? I’m certainly suspicious of the origin of this ECHSO text, and the person(s) responsible.

  17. Aaron Rogers 7 March 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    I’ve just found the following message on the CSW website. I have also written to Haggai Institue for clarification.

    Many of our supporters have reported receiving an urgent text message about the possible execution of 22 Christian missionary families in Afghanistan.

    The original message reads:

    Please pray for 22 Christian misionary families that will be executed today in Afghanistan. Please spread to others fast.

    CSW has received information from our contacts in Afghanistan who say that they are not aware of a situation of this kind currently occurring. Our contacts have suggested that the messages may refer to a situation which has since been resolved.

    The facts in the text messages are very similar to a case in July 2007 when 23 Korean missionaries were taken captive by the Taliban. In this case, two of the group were killed by their captors, but the remaining missionaries were released in August 2007.

    Source:
    Text message re: missionary families in Afghanistan.

  18. josh 4 March 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    Apparently this is an sms hoax and was all over twitter for days and days in february. http://www.esler.org/2009/03/01/22-christians-martyred-in-afghanistan-sms-hoax/

  19. Alessandra 4 March 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    Hi, I received that text message too, and I went to the web and I found out thhat that was true, on the christianpost.com was sayinf that 23 missionaris was captured fy the Afganisthan and they want to trade the Korean moissionares by some prisioners that was in Korean, thaey already had executed their Pr. leaving 22 people as hostages. You should check that, and by the way I am sorry aboutthe speling I am not an American.

  20. Verry Agus 4 March 2009 at 10:28 am #

    Maybe, it’s just maybe… could it be a real thing?
    Maybe they’ve executed now… Maybe the sms was sent by someone who knew their condition. Just let our Lord do the right thing for the truth

  21. Stephanie 4 March 2009 at 2:53 am #

    hi, well I recieved the text message today (4th March 09) and I immediately thought “oh no!! how horrible” and began to pray. I forwarded it to people as it had asked. I also checked on the news as I thought that something as big as this would be on the news, but when there was nothing, i started googling, which is how i came accross this page. I don’t know whats going on, but it really makes me wonder that if everyone was talking about it in feb, then it definately isn’t true now in march.

  22. [...] leave a comment » Last week Friday I recieved a text message urging me to pray for 22 Christian missionary families in Afghanistan who were going to be executed. ¬†Thanking God for the ability for modern technology to spread such an important message I tweeted it on the Twitter edition of The Jesus Blog. However, it appears that this text message is a hoax.¬† [...]


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