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Sep 08 2013

One tent and a stack of Bibles

There’s a new documentary, Mission Congo by Lara Zizic and David Turner, that alleges some very dubious activities by Pat Robertson. Charity bait-and-switch fraud allegations.

Robertson has a non-profit organization, Operation Blessing International (OBI). He’s in a position to raise a lot of money for it, given the 700 Club and the Christian Broadcasting Network and all. He can just say send money, and people send money. He said send money specifically to aid refugees from the Rwandan genocide who fled to camps in DR Congo.

Chris McGreal, a journalist for The Guardian who was stationed at the refugee camp in Goma, recalled a strange sight. The camp was plagued by a cholera epidemic, which claimed over 40,000 lives. As victims were rushed to medical tents on stretchers, he witnessed a preacher running alongside the stretcher clenching a Bible and preaching to the victim. The Bible-thumper was a member of OBI.

“They had one tent and a stack of Bibles,” said a member of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which provided actual aid to the refugree camp in Goma, in the film.

“People began to refuse the Bibles,” added a local. “‘What we need is food and medicine,’ they said. Operation Blessing would say, ‘That’s not our mission.’”

Bibles. They brought bibles. They brought bibles, and nothing else.

According to Jessie Potts, who served as Operations Manager for OBI in 1994, the charity stopped sending medical teams to Goma several weeks into the operation. Instead, the film alleges that these resources—the donations, the cargo planes, etc.—were used for the for-profit African Development Company Ltd., a diamond mining operation that was headquartered in Kinshasa, while the mining site itself was located in the remote village of Kamonia. Robertson was the sole shareholder and president of ADC.

There are many details, including named people who go on the record.

OBI’s Chief Pilot Hinkle claims in the film that the cargo planes, which bore the logo “Operation Blessing” on the tail, were barely used for any sort of charitable work. Instead, he was shipping 8-inch and 6-inch dredges, 55-gallon drums of fuel, food supplies, four-wheelers, and Jeeps out to the diamond dredging operation in Kamonia. Of the 40 flights he flew, the film alleges that 43.9 hours were spent on humanitarian aid, while 271.9 hours were spent on transporting dredges around Zaire. At one point, Hinkle says he became so disgusted that he had the “Operation Blessing” logo removed from the aircraft. The film also claims that the 3,000-foot airstrip Robertson touted on his program was not used for the transport of medical supplies, but for the mining operation.

You know…if the allegations are true, that’s fraud. It’s my understanding that fraud is a crime. Are prosecutors afraid to go after Pat Robertson because he’s on TeamGod?

7 comments

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  1. 1
    leni

    …were used for the for-profit African Development Company Ltd., a diamond mining operation that was headquartered in Kinshasa, while the mining site itself was located in the remote village of Kamonia. Robertson was the sole shareholder and president of ADC.

    I’ve never been a fan of the man and I’m pretty sure the net balance of good and evil in the universe will shift significantly toward good when he dies, but this is actually worse than even I would have imagined.

  2. 2
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Is it bad that I’m not even a little bit surprised?

  3. 3
    Cuttlefish

    Not the first time something like this has happened (which will surprise no one here): After the earthquake in Haiti, a group made headlines for sending in… solar powered bibles.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2010/01/19/starving-have-a-bible/

  4. 4
    anthrosciguy

    I will hope this helps bring some action against Robertson, but I’m dubious, because this has been known for some time and nothing’s happened yet. For instance, I read about the charity resource diversion to his mining operation several years ago online.

    Who’s going to bring charges of fraud against him? The same government which for years has refused to go after churches which knowingly break the tax laws by endorsing political positions and politicians?

  5. 5
    Ingdigo Jump

    I thought this was public knowledge

    Didn’t know it was in despute at all

  6. 6
    Eamon Knight

    Pat Robertson’s diamond mine (and the diversion of allegedly charity resources to it) is old news. Google “pat robertson diamond mine”. Then read ‘em and weep, as they say.

  7. 7
    medivh

    Hrrrm. Best possible outcome of that is MSF asks everyone to accept a bible.

    And then pass them around as kindling. The nights get cold over there, I hear. Can’t think of anything to save the fraud, though. That’s just straight-up horse hockey.

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