Saturday, October 27, 2007

The danger of doing good

Here’s an interesting recent development in my former hometown of Abeche.

Several members of a French agency have been detained in Abeche due to the accusation of child trafficking. The French agency, Zoe’s Ark, is being accused of illegally trying to export hundreds of children back to France. France, UNICEF and Chad have all denounced this “rescue mission” and are pressing criminal charges. Meanwhile, hundreds of host families were waiting pointlessly at an airport in France to receive a Darfur orphan. Officials contend that some of the children are not from Darfur and some are not orphans – but most importantly, they say Zoe’s Ark did not follow international law governing the movement of children.

Read more about this in the UK’s Times newspaper.

I do not know this group and cannot say whether their motives were good or evil, but either way, this is a gravely unfortunate situation and illustrates the danger of inexperienced people trying to “do good.” Humanitarian work needs to be left up to the professionals.

I remember when an American mega-church raised thousands of dollars and sent the pastor over to my town in Chad to “do good.” The pastor was clueless to the local culture, local needs and was more intent on giving the money then thinking carefully about the consequences. He dropped into town unannounced, gave all the money to a local pastor with instructions to do good, and then left. Five days later, the local pastor was gone and so was all that money.

In our rush to come to the aid of people (which is a very good thing, by the way) we can sometimes act without thinking. I would like to assume that this is the case with Zoe’s Ark – a group of generous people with good intentions rushing ahead without playing by the rules. My prayers are with these children, no matter where they end up in this world.

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