A recent editorial claims a Christian missionary organisation, Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH) is “preying” on traumatised victims of the Haiti earthquake. Digital Journal reports the other side of the story.
The editorial said FCBH was not sending urgently needed food or medical supplies, but instead, audio Bibles in the local language, Creole. It claimed this was a form of ”preying” on ”indigenous peoples, the poor and the illiterate, the ones who live depressed and degraded lives with little hope.”
FCBH’s website, however, put the use of its audio Bible in context:
Convoy of Hope, a disaster relief organization and ministry partner of Faith Comes By Hearing, feeds the hungry and provides pure drinking water to people in need across the United States and around the world.
Jon Wilke, FCBH spokesman says:
It's hard for us to imagine losing everything — your home, your family and neighbours. But that's what has happened to so many there. Now, imagine standing in a line waiting for aid and hearing Jesus say (in the Beatitudes) ”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Imagine hearing about how Jesus had no place to lay his head. These verses in God's Word can demonstrate that God understands their situation and has not forgotten them.
In an e-mail to Digital Journal, Wilke explained FCBH’s role:
We understand the need for necessities and survival supplies and encourage people to support those first. But after the supply lines provide that relief, these people who have lost so much have to deal with the emotional loss of their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods.
Wilke pointed out emotional relief did not cancel out urgent, physical needs:
These Audio Bibles are still in the US, being sent to these partners. They will go out in waves and start arriving in a few weeks. These solar-powered Audio Bibles are in no way delaying those supplies essential for the Haitians at this time. They aren’t loaded on some airplane that is clogging the runway or on a container being offloaded in a port.
As for “preying” on earthquake victims, Wilke explained that his group was responding to requests from Haiti, not pushing audio players down their throats:
Nearly a dozen disaster relief groups (ranging from medical teams, water purification specialists, native Haitian and DR missionaries, etc.) have requested these solar-powered Audio Bibles from Faith Comes By Hearing. Faith Comes By Hearing is working alongside these groups to provide these solar-powered Audio Bibles at their request.
Asked whether FCBH had opportunistically gone to Haiti to proselytize, Wilke answered:
Our non-profit has been working in Haiti since 1986. Faith Comes By Hearing records the Bible in the world’s languages, and Haitian Creole was the first language we recorded. Haitian pastors came to our ministry and asked us to produce Haitian Audio New Testaments on cassettes for their people. Once we recorded the New Testament and produced the tapes, we realized we needed to produce a device to help play the Bible. That’s one reason we have the device we designed now.
Responding to the claim that handing out digital audio Bibles was a form of exploitation of the poor and uneducated, the spokesman said:
The poor and illiterate people have been preyed upon since the beginning because they don’t have access to the truth. Poverty and illiteracy go hand in hand. Those that are poor can’t (get) education, books and don’t have the time learn to read because they have to work more due to lesser paying jobs.
Wilke took the editorial’s comparison of FCBH’s work with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi propaganda calmly, saying:
The Bible is offensive to many in the world today, and while many people have claimed Christianity and have historically forced it upon others, Faith Comes By Hearing simply provides the Bible in a format that poor and illiterate people can access. It’s audio so they can listen because they can’t read. The people listen and make up their own minds about what they believe. There are no sermons, preaching, teaching, denominational nothing on these Proclaimers — just the Bible in their language and in a format they can use — audio.
And to round off his response to the repeated claim that giving these Creole language audio Bibles out was tantamount to the actions of the Burmese junta or other oppressors, Wilke gave a quote from the 19th Century English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley:
The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor and oppressed. The human race is not in a position to dispense with it.
Huxley was an agnostic and a strong proponent of Charles Darwin, but he nonetheless advocated the teaching of the Bible in schools, but in an edited form, according to Wikipedia.