Sex Abuse in Humanitarian Groups, Christian Ministries: Who Is Left to Trust?

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By Stoyan Zaimov , Christian Post Reporter
(Photo: AP Images / Alexandre Meneghini)In this photo taken May 31, 2010, people sit in the Corail-Cesselesse camp for earthquake displaced people on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

In the wake of reports that Christian humanitarian ministries have been caught up in a wide net of sexual abuse allegations, many questions have emerged over who can be trusted.

While abuse of any kind is denounced, it hits a particular nerve when the people who have pledged to protect and help those in the most vulnerable situations are the abusers themselves.

Boz Tchividjian, the grandson of the late evangelist Billy Graham and who has devoted his career to exposing and confronting sexual abuse in the Christian environment, said human nature “is a sinful nature.”

“It doesn’t matter what ministry you’re in,” he told The Christian Post.

Tchividjian has served as a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). GRACE has built its credentials as a leading nonprofit hired to independently investigate several cases of sexual abuse in Christian ministries.

Sex abuse in the humanitarian sector is far from a new phenomenon, but a Sunday Times report in February exposed the depth and magnitude of the ongoing problem concerning various secular and Christian aid groups.

Some of the most notable revelations concerned British charity Oxfam, which was hit by allegations that its staff members offered aid or money for sex with prostitutes in earthquake-ravaged Haiti in 2011.

The charity later admitted that it was dealing with 87 incidents of sexual harassment or abuse in the past year, with its deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, resigning in the wake of the scandal.

Other big groups, such as Save the Children, admitted to dealing with 31 cases of sex abuse in total. The International Committee of the Red Cross said that more than 20 of its employees have left the organization over sexual misconduct since 2015. Plan International U.K. owned up to six cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, dating back to July 2016.

The United Nations has also been condemned by aid workers who say that men delivering humanitarian aid on behalf of the organization in Syria have routinely demanded sexual acts from women and girls. And the abuse has been ignored for years.

(Photo: Reuters/Stringer)Residents queue up to receive humanitarian aid at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus March 11, 2015. The Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which is under siege by Syrian government forces fighting rebels, has received its first relief supplies since the beginning of December. The aid was delivered by the United Nations Relief and Works Organization UNRWA on March 5.

British regulator the Charity Commission revealed that charities report over 1,000 sexual abuse incidents every year. Priti Patel, the former international development secretary, warned that “predatory pedophiles” have been exploiting the entire sector.

Faith-based organizations were also caught up in a web of accusations, including Christian Aid, which admitted to two incidents of sexual misconduct in the past year. Still, the charity insisted in a statement that “neither individual had acted criminally, nor had their misconduct been directed toward anyone who is supported by Christian Aid.”

World Vision, the global evangelical aid group that supports children, pushed back against a Daily Mail article that reported that in 2010, its employees were accused of forcing desperate Haitians to have sex with them or pay money for aid, similar to Oxfam.