After Pat Robertson's comments that the Haitian earthquake was a result of Haiti's pact with the devil, I am going to go over again why I did not generally like the Christian missionary's approach to helping people in Africa.
You would think that as a CUSO volunteer, I would appreciate the efforts of Christians, building orphanages, schools, medical facilities. While those were appreciated, there were some problems with the Christian approach, which in my opinion is very simplistic all the way to willfully ignorant about the real causes of problems in Africa (and I guess Haiti too).
Take the example of Pat Robertson, who says that Haiti's poverty is proof of their pact with the devil. At first I thought the comment was racist, but after some discussion (with my sister, a Born Again Christian), I have come to the conclusion it is more ignorance than racism. A racist would say Haitians are poor because they are dishonest, lazy, stupid. Pat is not saying that, he is saying their misery is only because they had a pact with the Devil. Apparently this pact is well known in the history and folklore of Haiti, so I am not going to take the usual scientific approach and say the devil does not exist. And I was going nowhere with the opposite reasoning that the white slave countries also had an obvious pact with the devil. But the fact is that white countries have had a huge negative impact on Haiti's prosperity. A quick read of the history of Haiti will, for most people have an eye opening effect. Like "Wow, I never realized how inhumane and dishonourable the other counties like France, USA especially (even Germany) were to Haiti. It's even worse than Avatar 3D!" But why would anyone really be surprised, if they actually know a little bit about the history of the American Indians, about the history of slavery, about the history of Europe in general.
The only surprise for me in reading some Haitian history, and one that really merits further study, was a period of peace and stability and even the beginnings of prosperity that Haiti managed to achieve with little or no help from white countries, before the Americans invaded in 1912 and started a brutal occupation that lead to further brutal dictatorships, and pretty much constant interference right up to the present day.
My feelings about Christian missionary activities comes down to this. Some Christians have a childishly simplistic view of what causes poverty in Africa, and elsewhere. They have a one sided and mythical view of how the world works based on American greatness and other people's sinfulness, and of course their own God being the only right one. They do not care to understand the history, and in most cases do not understand enough about international finance to get a handle on the real problems of developing countries. If it was simple ignorance, I would have no problem, but not only does it focus the efforts in the wrong direction, it sometimes leads to catastrophes.
For example in Sierra Leone, where coincidentally, I lived for three years, and coincidentally Pat Robertson had some remote involvement. It started off simple enough. Pat had a charitable organization that was doing their usual thing in Africa, well-meaning people just trying to help. But Pat wanted to be wealthy and so he also set up a mining company with his own money. Then he found a way to transfer money from the charity to the mining company.
Here again I have an issue with the simplistic approach of Christians. Pat was found guilty of fraudulently taking money from his charities, but his supporters say he did nothing wrong, because he never took money from the charity. It seems like they do not understand that there are ways of committing fraud without actually taking cash.
True, the charities received all the money sent to them. That's because the charity is audited, as any charity must be in order to prevent theft. Neither Pat's charity, nor any other charity in the USA or Canada operate on trust and faith alone just because they are "nice Christians". If good hearted Christians don't know that, maybe there are a lot more things they may be unaware of when it comes to money matters in developing countries or elsewhere.
Just to explain it on the level of someone who knows nothing of fraud and finance. (let alone international development), independent accountants must regularly go over the financial books of a charity. But a clever person can always find new ways to cheat and get money out of the charity, so that the auditors can't find it. The method Pat used was to run a private, personal mining company (gold diamonds etc) in parallel with the charity, but not having any connection financially between them. Both organizations needed airplanes to operate. In fact, the charity didn't really "need" the planes, it was a nice thing to have sometimes. Airplanes are always are nice to have, hey, even I could use one right now. Airplanes are just too expensive for most charities that have more pressing needs for that million dollars. But aircraft were vital to the mining operations. So the decision(?) was made that the charity would buy the aircraft instead of the mining company, then Pat secretly made use of the aircraft, paid for by the charity, to conduct the mining operations. He still thinks it was no big deal, just put a few mining supplies on a plane, that's all. And people who know nothing of fraud of course agree with him, after all he is a Christian, how could he be bad? That's how simplistic thinking starts bad things happening.
I am objecting to the oversimplification of the problem of poverty in the developing world, promoted by Christian missionaries. And furthermore the lack of understanding of what is going on by admittedly well meaning people which allows greedy individuals to get away with stuff that drains money from the charitable causes.
But far worse was a "mistake" Pat made that caused tremendous human suffering in Sierra Leone. And why did he make that mistake? Because he either let himself be guided by over-simplistic Christian ideas, or there was conflict of interest. The simplistic idea was that because warlord Charles Taylor was "A Born Again Christian" and that his enemies were Muslims, Pat could place his trust in Charles Taylor, and enter into an agreement with him that was worth millions of dollars, enabling Taylor (from neighbouring Liberia) to wage a horrific clandestine war against Sierra Leone, to steal their diamonds. Pat expected to make money out of this deal, so not only was Christian oversimplification involved, but "conflict of interest" as well. He didn't make money, of course Taylor kept it all.
At the very least, Pat closed his eyes to what was going on, and continued to support Charles Taylor. Either through greed, or Christian blindness (because it was only Muslims who were being butchered), or just stupidity, I don't know. But as the atrocities mounted, Pat stayed a firm friend of Taylor. Finally the atrocities reached a point where even the US government under George Bush could not stand it any more, and called on Charles Taylor to step down as President of Liberia. Pat then publicly rebuked President Bush, saying it was no business of his to interfere in African politics.
If Pat is not outright evil, I do not accept that it is just an innocent mistake, but a stubborn refusal to recognize that mistake. And of course, conflict of interest (greed) was involved as Pat still hoped Taylor could repay the 7 million dollars and more. I actually don't think Pat is as stupid as he pretends to be, but that's just my opinion.
The amount of suffering caused in Sierra Leone is probably way more than all the good done by all the well meaning people in Pat's charitable organization. If I did believe in Hell, I might take great comfort in thinking Pat Robertson may end up in it. If not, well there's always Pat Robertson Voodoo dolls for sale on eBay. Don't forget to read the Q&A before bidding.
Picture: No, that's not Haiti! A Learjet, one of Pat Robertson's planes crashed, killing both pilots. And he says Haitian misfortune is all because of their pact with the devil. Well I won't be flying Air Pat Robertson anytime soon.