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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/9/13

Mission Congo: Exposing Pat Robertson's Fraud May Be Shocking, But Will It Shock People Enough?

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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.

The story of Pat Robertson's involvement in Africa has been told many times (OpEdNews - " Pat Robertson, Your State Of Corruption Is Showing "). But this telling may be different: on film, it brings to startling effect the fraud perpetrated by Robertson during the early 90's and involving one of history's greatest nightmares. 

Mission Congo, a documentary film directed by David Turner and Lara Zizic which had its debut last Friday at the Toronto Independent Film Festival, hopes to create the firestorm that should have happened twenty years ago. 

The Allegations

The whole story of Operation Blessing and the refugees of Rwanda may never be known, but the allegations brought about in the film bring to light enough damaging aspects of the situation to cause outrage against Robertson's perfidy.

"We're going to ship enough medicine to take care of a quarter of a million refuges."

"I want to chart a 727 airplane with 100 doctors directly into Goma. It will be the largest contingent of doctors, I believe, on the field."  

Other promises:

  • An airstrip to aid refugees.
  • A school for children
  • A farming operation feeding thousands of refugees and Congolese

Several weeks after the campaign conducted by the MSF Mà decins Sans Frontià res - "Doctors Without Borders") started, Operation Blessing left the stricken area. The only presence they seemed to have over those few weeks: one tent, a pile of Bibles and a ton of Tylenol. The airstrip served only ADF - African Development Company, Ltd, Pat Robertson's diamond mining operation. And of the 40 flights attributed to Operation Blessing, 34 were used to ferry Robertson's mining equipment (dredges).  

The farm? Operation Blessing personnel disregarded local advice on indigenous crops. It failed miserably. It chief success was as a tax dodge in importing the mining equipment under the auspices of Operation Blessing. The school? Robertson said it was "thriving" long after it was found ... abandoned.

The chief pilot for OBI, Bob Hinckle, was so disgusted by the scam, that he had the Operation Blessing logo removed from his aircraft. He is featured in Mission Congo.

Master Of Spin Or Sin?

Why Robertson was not brought to trial concerning his fraudulent machinations is also the stuff of movies: although the affair was investigated, no charges were brought against Robertson, OBI, ADC or Christian Broadcasting Network. Both Governor James Gilmore and Attorney General Mark Earley had received hefty campaign contributions from Robertson.  

All the parties involved considered the matter closed and acquitted because no prosecution had ensued: it was a simple, but eloquent spin on a scandalous situation. Robertson continued to pile praise upon Operation Blessing, increasing its compassionate (fictional) statistics and continuing to give the impression that both farm and school were "thriving."  

What Now?

Indie documentary films - like Mission Congo, debuting at the Toronto Independent Film Festival - rarely have as much impact as they hope to have.  

"Sometimes a story hits you so profoundly that you simply have to act," the directors said in the release. "We were researching a fiction script when we came across an article mentioning Robertson's dual activities in Congo. We felt that these activities, and implied level of deception, were unfathomable on so many levels that we had to find out more. How could something like this happen? Why was there not more coverage in the media? How did he get away with it? If it happened then, is it still happening now?"

Robertson has been pummeled by media on the Left because of his outrageous (some - like me - say "senile") statements, while media on the Right have patently ignored them. It is a tacit distancing, a benign neglect of Robertson that permeates the Christian Right that is battling with its own demons: people such as Scott Lively and Bryan Fischer have been too much in the news to be discounted. Will Mission Congo be the impetus for a full break with Pat Robertson?  

Heaven knows. 

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Mission Congo by Toronto International Film Festival


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Rev. Dan Vojir is has been writing/blogging on religion and politics for the better part of ten years. A former radio talk show host (Strictly Books " Talk America Radio Network) and book publisher, Dan has connected with some of the most (more...)
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