Tony Campolo on why tackling corruption matters

Evangelical author and speaker Tony Campolo talks here about why he is taking a stand against corruption as part of the church-led Exposed 2013 campaign.

Published 18 May 2013
Tony Campolo

What attracted you to Exposed 2013?
Tony: I thought this would be an important subject to deal with, and so I accepted the invitation. I found it a subject that we haven't tackled before, I have been very committed to helping the poor. My whole life has been organised around developing ministries for poor people but I don't think we have ever dealt with the issue of corruption. So this was a wonderful opportunity to begin to study something that needed to be studied and because it was crucial.

 We all knew the reality, that it was hurting people within the Third World. That billions of dollars was being used in corrupt ways that weren't benefiting anybody. Those of us who have had to ship medicine and food into Third World countries in times of emergency knew that there was corruption and trouble getting things through unless we bribe people. It all irritates you and you realise what a hindrance this is to doing to the good you want to do. So needless to say, this is a subject I have never thought of researching before. I thought I'd better take a good look at this.

What difference would Exposed 2013 make to the world's poorest people?
Tony: If we are able to get rid of corruption it would do more good, I think it is as simple as that. A lot of good doesn't get done because corrupt politicians are siphoning all the money. People are bribed to get services that they should be getting for free.

The Exposed Global call to end corruption aims to gather a million signatures on a petition to be handed to G20 leaders in 2014. How effective do you think this will be?
Tony: I am all for that because it gives exposure that Christians are concerned about this. What petitions actually achieve is hard for me to describe. I can't imagine politicians saying 'I'm dishonest, but a million people signed a petition so I'd better repent'. I don't think that is going to happen. I think what this will do is to begin to propagate the fact that evangelical Christians are aware of the problem and are going to be talking about this and this is something that politicians corporately are going to have to listen to.

Politicians are people who, one of my friends said, have wet fingers. They put their fingers in their mouth, get it wet, hold it up to see which way the wind is blowing. Then they tend to go in accordance of the direction of the wind. One of my friends says even if you can't change politicians, if you can get enough people talking about something, you can change the direction of the wind and they will respond. I think this is a very important thing.

The problem is the politicians know that it is all too easy signing a petition. I think this is the beginning of getting Christians aware of a problem they should have addressed a long time ago. There will be a million people who are now becoming aware that we need to be doing something to change this horrendous system of corruption. What we have to do is get Christians so worked up over this that they will not settle for anything less than action. That's what the petition will do. It will change those who sign it, it will make them into more committed people, and it will raise consciousness on the issue.

Tax evasion has been around since the dawn of taxes. Can you see governments being able to put a stop to tax evasion?
Tony: I think the British government could, I don't think the American government could. The reason is, the way we run campaigns in the United States is that candidates have to raise huge amounts of money. In order to run the presidency this year took $2bn. To run for the US Congress is $2,500,000 for your campaign, you have to do that every two years. Where are you going to get the money? Corporations will give you money, labour unions will give you money but there is no such thing as a 'free loan'. When they give you the money, they are assuming that you will be obligated to vote for tax laws that will serve their interests. The major oil corporations in the United States pay almost no taxes at all because what has happened over the years is these corporations have given candidates huge amounts of money to run their political campaigns. When they're elected, they pass laws to serve the interest of the givers, especially tax laws.

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