I don’t like missionaries. I don’t like the idea of missionaries. The idea is simple. Go enlighten the blighted heathen and wow them with technology so that we can replace their unenlightened dark gods with our rape excusing, slavery begetting, incestuous, murderous god who is more civilised simply because we wear pants and they do not.
I understand that’s the older version of the missionary but the modern mission’s purpose is similar. Sure there may be more oversight and the emphasis has increased on helping people but the oversight is not there. And very often the miissionary doesn’t help so much as sweep into and out of their lives in a whirlwind of iPhones and temporary technology. Or worse, are so unfit for field work that they actually end up doing harm.
And no where is this seen as badly as in Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing International which is the subject of a documentary called Mission Congo.
The Congo holds a special place in my heart. I have never been. But I lost a friend there.
A young lady I knew loved to help people. She travelled the world and no matter what faced her be it pain or suffering or even death she faced it head on. She died in the DRC while trying to feed refugees. A fight broke out and then a riot and during that fateful day someone cut her throat. No one knows the details. Ed died that day and died alone. I like to think that Ed died with no regrets and would always have wanted to go to help.
She influenced me a lot and while I will probably never go to the DRC, a lot of who I am is to try and emulate her love and her compassion. Her courage touched the lives of everyone she met and even some she did not.
To hear the stories about Operation Blessing is just tragic.
During the 1994 Rwandan Crisis there was a rather comical sight if you like your humour like I like my coffee (Dark and Bitter). The stretcher bearers at the refugee camps would be rushing the dying and wounded to medical tents accompanied by men who ran alongside reading Bible verses.
Never mind the fact that the genocide was perpetrated under the blessings of priests who probably justified their actions from the same book. It is estimated that in the aftermath roughly 40,000 people died from cholera. And the bulk of the volunteers there were from Medicin Sans Frontieres (MSF).
The Bible Readers were from Operation Blessing International. Remember when I said some people aren’t suited for charity and go to third world nations and end up costing resources? I was talking about these guys.
But the main problem seems to be that Pat Robertson forgot his own book. Thou Shalt Not Lie Mr. Robertson! Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network helped raise millions of dollars from loyal followers by claiming that Operation Blessing International (OBI) was actively part of the international response even. And to this day he still makes the claim that he was in charge of helping the biggest refugee crisis of the 1990s despite official investigations declaring his operation to be fraudulent and deceptive and that there was an almost non-existent aid operation.
“We brought the largest contingent of medicine into Goma in Zaire, at least the first and the largest,” Robertson
His own operations manager Jessie Potts, at Goma in 1994, said that the medicines that did arrive were pretty useless in fighting a Cholera Epidemic.
“We got a lot of Tylenol. Too much. I never did understand that. We got enough Tylenol to supply all of Zaire. God, I never saw as much in my life,” he said. The strangest thing is, had Pat Robertson shipped Water, Sugar and Salt it would have done more to save the lives of the people he claimed to have helped.
And a lot of former aid workers are coming out and criticising him. Throughout the Rwandan Crisis, refugees fled into Zaire where they had a mass outbreak of Cholera. Pat Robertson made the claim that OBI was out there saving lives.
“It was the most important first medical shipment on the scene out of everything,” he said of one aid delivery as he appealed for donations.
In another broadcast, Robertson said Operation Blessing was saving thousands of lives.
“The death toll in this particular camp went down to almost zero because of our people being there,”
Robertson claimed that Operation Blessing sent plane-loads of doctors.
“These are tents set up with our doctors and our medical teams that came from here to work as hard as they could to save lives,” Robertson said over pictures of a large tent of children on drips being tended by nurses and doctors.
These were utter lies. The photos were of Medicin Sans Frontier staff as was the video footage.
In fact when asked, MSF staff didn’t remember the charity nor anyone working with it. None of the charity organisations there did. And remember this was a multi-million dollar charity operation.
And it’s only natural. MSF had hundreds of staff and utilised hundreds more local workers. OBI sent doctors to help. But not in the numbers claimed or implied. No major charity was willing to agree to the claim that OBI was one of the major charities in the region. Nor was it the first on scene.
OBI sent JUST 7 Doctors and 1 Medical Tent. I am pretty sure that MSF was able to raise more than 7 doctors from the Rwandan Refugees to help out.
You think this is bad?
“The soil is unbelievable. You stick anything in the ground and it grows. You put a shovel in and it starts sprouting,” he said in appealing for donations for a 100,000 Acre farm at Dumi.
The televangelist was also raising donations for Operation Blessing’s other activities in Congo during this time as part of the crisis. Such as a 100,000-acre farm near the town of Dumi, which Robertson claimed had produced a large harvest of corn and was a “tremendous feeding station” for the poor and refugees.
The farm had already failed. The soil was of poor quality and Operation Blessing brought unsuitable seeds that failed. Remember what I said about Pol Pot and the Cultural Revolution of Mao? They failed because farming is a science and ideology does not grow crops. American Seeds + Poor Soil = Failed Harvest.
To this day, Robertson continues to solicit donations on the back of the project, on the grounds that although the farm failed, it left a legacy with a school that established a “foundation of education” in the town.
2011 posting on the Operation Blessing website described the school as “thriving”.
Apparently visitors from non-Robertsonian sources describe the school as “abandoned”, “bereft of furniture” and “falling down”.
Similarly, local leaders in Kamonia said that they were promised schools, roads and a hospital by Robertson’s mining company – but none of it materialised.
And people ask why I distrust missionaries. Because people who think blind faith and a single way hold the answers to all of life’s questions are gullible and can do great evil under the guise of good.
Some of the most damaging criticism comes from former workers. Such as Robert Hinkle who describes how he signed on in order to fly mercy flights to save refugees. Instead he was diverted to haul equipment to a genuine bonafide Central African Diamond Mine owned by Pat.
Jesus Christ Pat! You have just crossed the line from arsehole to Batwing Villain.
“They began asking me: can we haul a thousand-pound dredge over? I didn’t know what the dredging deal was about,” Robert Hinkle
“Mission after mission was always just getting eight-inch dredgers, six-inch dredgers … and food supplies, quads, jeeps, out to the diamond dredging operation outside of Kamonia,” Robert Hinkle
Robert regrets his decision to this day. He says that he joined OBI to help. Of the 40 flights he flew into Congo, just two delivered aid. The others were associated with the diamond mining. He was so embarrassed he stripped the OBI logo from his plane as he made deliveries to an airstrip that Robertson claimed was part of his aid operations to the region.
But surely this means he would get his just desserts?
Robertson’s activities in the Congo region are well known. He was investigated by the Attorney General and Consumer Affairs of Virginia where the charity iss registered. It was reported that Pat was “fraudulent and deceptive” with claims of ferrying doctors and medical equipment when in reality he was ferrying mining equipment. In addition OBI misrepresented it’s flights and it’s facilities on the ground when in fact most of said facilities did not belong to it and/or were part of a mining operation.
In addition the Dumi Farm Project was portrayed as a success when it was a failure in order to raise more money.
“Pat Robertson made material claims, via television appeals, regarding the relief efforts. These statements are refuted by the evidence in this case,” Consumer Affairs of Virginia
So why is Pat still on TV making such claims?
Leading state politicians were sponsored by Mr. Robertson after all. And this isn’t his only such act of absolute monstrosity.
Robertson was a major supporter of Charles Taylor. In fact OBI pilots in 1994 reported that funds and supplies were diverted from Rwanda and the Congo to Liberia. Charles Taylor’s brutal actions killed thousands of people and caused a variety of humanitarian crisis from destruction of farmland, starvation, genocide, enforced cannibalism, human sacrifice and child soldiers. Charles Taylor is currently in prison for Crimes against Humanity.
And Robertson was a part of it.
So how does one walk free from all this?
The Virginian authorities declined to prosecute Pat Robertson claiming his misrepresentation as a “blemish”. After all relief supplies were sent. Pat never said how much of the money was earmarked for it.
Mission Congo, by David Turner and Lara Zizic, opens at the Toronto film festival on Friday. It describes how claims about the scale of aid to Rwandan refugees were among a number of exaggerated or false assertions about the activities of Operation Blessing which pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in donations, much of it through Robertson’s televangelism. They include characterising a failed large-scale farming project as a huge success, and claims about providing schools and other infrastructure.
If you can, watch it. And tell your friends. And then realise the value of supporting a secular charity. It doesn’t mean that MSF don’t hire Christians, it just means that their priorities are screwed on right.
As for Pat?
If his god exists, then there is a special place in hell for the sort of people who take advantage of the kindness of human nature by portraying incredible suffering in order to make a profit.