'Heartbreaking' controversy hits Voice of the Martyrs persecution charity in Nigeria

Christians suffer growing persecution in Nigeria from Islamist groups such as Boko HaramReuters

A persecution organisation in the United States has severed all links with a sister organisation in Nigeria after questions have been raised about allegatins of abuse and use of charitable funds.

The Reformation Baptist Church has launched an online petition calling for an investigation into Voice of the Martyrs in Nigeria.

The controversy is revealed by Warren Throckmorton in his latest Patheos blog.

Todd Nettleton, head of media with Voice of the Martyrs in the US, told Throckmorton: 'It is heartbreaking for us to consider that someone may have used VOM-USA funds or projects as a means to victimize anyone – especially a child.'

Nettleton said VOM had taken 'wise and appropriate action' to see that victims are helped and justice is served.

Voice of the Christian Martyrs-Nigeria and Voice of the Martyrs-USA share historical roots, traced back to Pastor Richard Wurmbrand.

Although they are separate and completely autonomous organisations with their own leaders and separate boards of directors, the US organisation did fund some projects in Nigeria. However this has now stopped and all relationships between the two completely severed.

The US organisations first heard about the allegations from a former member of staff of the Nigerian organisation who had been fired.  Although those were investigated and found to be without foundation, staff in the US overseeing work in Nigeria became 'increasingly concerned' about overcrowding and quality of care at The Stephen Centre children's home operated by the Nigerian organisation, according to Nettleton.

'In addition, VOM-USA had serious questions about the accountability and financial management of VOM-USA funds by VOCM-Nigeria staff members,' he said in his response to Throckmorton.

The US organisation has sent a video making claims about the Nigerian organisation to the FBI for further investigation.

'It is our sincere hope that if criminal activities have occurred, the criminals will be brought to justice. The only way alleged perpetrators can be charged with a crime is for victims to file complaints with the Nigerian authorities, and VOM-USA has made a standing offer to pay all legal fees for any potential victim in Nigeria,' said Nettleton in a statement released on May 3.

Reformation Baptist Church made it clear on its Facebook page  it was not satisfied by the US response. 'We are thankful that they have acknowledged some of the issues in their work in Nigeria, but we are very concerned that they still refuse to do an independent investigation, and that several statements they made are not open and forthright,' it says, calling for an independent investigation.

'Since they have been ministering in the name of Jesus Christ, they should desire to walk in the light and insist on an outside investigation to clear their name and to make certain that they do not have policies in place that would facilitate [sexual abuse] in other places in the world,' says Reformation Baptist.