Yesterday they prayed for us.
Today they preyed on us.
The Lausanne 3 Conference brought together some 4000 people this past October (2010) in South Africa. Here are excerpts from one of the seven MCA blogs at the Global Conversation portal at Lausanne 3.
The main questions of this particular blog: How can we develop safeguards to prevent and capacity to deal with corruption in mission/aid? Are there protective mechanisms in place to support those who confront corruption, including abuse of authority/position, harassment/retaliation, and fraud/embezzlement? Yes, No, or Probably?!
"We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good." "...we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love." Martin Luther King Jr.
[Updated/addition: Our hearts go out to the people in the MENA region and all those who are willing to peacefully confront, risk, and even die for social justice. We must learn from them. There comes a time when we too, in our respective spheres of influence, must no longer keep looking the other way in the face of wrongdoing, pretending that corruption and injustice do not really exist, and basing ethical decisions on convenience, self-protection, and self-interest (Philippians 2:21). We say this not because we are paranoid, or have a psychological disorder, or are on a moral crusade, or have a poor history of relationships, or are obsessed, or are insubordinate—or any other silly accusation that has been levied against us. Rather we say this because we will not “relinquish our privilege and obligation to love” as we seek to promote good practice/health in the mission-member care community.]
Major fraud and other forms of corruption are a fact of life. Just think of the bogus solicitations that you get regularly in your email inbox, sincerely asking for your sympathy, help, personal financial information, and ultimately your money. People get duped all the time. And even the financially savvy can become the prey of experienced fraudsters. No one is immune to being exposed to fraud’s far-reaching toxins, including people and organizations in the faith-based community.
For example an estimated 32 billion US dollars are stolen around the world through “ecclesiastical crime” according to the 2010 estimates published in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (January 2010, p. 36). Think of it as being a collective “minimum wage” paying over $350,000 per hour to “thieves” (many who are respected) within church-mission settings. This outrageous figure is derived by dividing the $32 billion dollars by the amount of hours per year. Further, if a "40 hour work-week" is considered, rather than working 24/7, then the international-collective estimate increases to about $1.5 million US dollars per hour. Think of it as being universal “crimianity”: the devastating result of the widespread, egregious mingling of Christianity and criminality.
The humanitarian assistance sector apparently fares no better. Consider the sobering news from the July 2008 joint report from Transparency International et al on the widespread occurrence of corruption in humanitarian assistance. The report includes a succinct perspective to help us understand the reality of corruption. Corruption is primarily an ‘abuse of entrusted power for personal gain’ which can devastate people in many ways (erosion of trust in self and others; time, energy, and money seeking justice; disillusionment), rather than solely being a financial matter (p.2). Review the report--especially the two-page Executive Summary at: http://www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/1207.pdf
In summary: Corruption is not just a concept out there somewhere. Rather it is a tangible reality for many of us in our everyday lives that comes in many guises. So what do we do to prevent, confront, and eradicate corruption in mission/aid?
Reflection and Discussion
1. What are a few things you can learn from the civil unrest and demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa now?
2. Reflect on the quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Recall a time that you did not put into practice this assertion about “co-operation” with evil/good and a time that you did?
3. How can the above resource from Transparency International be used in your setting, including the foundational definition of corruption being “the abuse of entrusted power for personal gain?”