Like so many people, I was shocked to learn that certain Oxfam aid workers had used prostitutes in the wake of the Haiti disaster in 2011. Workers who had been employed to protect and support vulnerable people had abused this power for their own selfish gain.
The news and social media platforms have been flooded with people's opinions especially those calling for the Government to pull its funding. At times like these, it is easy to retreat to merely spectating the news when in fact we should be entreating the government (and ourselves!) to take positive steps for change and generosity.
First, let's get to the heart of the issue. The issue is not international aid. The issue is governance and safeguarding. Oxfam has openly admitted that they have failed on this occasion and has pledged to put governance and safeguarding procedures in place to prevent future incidents. It would be wrong if this governance and safeguarding failure hindered international development or provoked the government to withdraw its pledge of giving 0.7% of its budget to foreign aid. People's lives are at stake. Instead of demanding the withdrawal of funds we should be asking for an inquiry. Let's support the victims, reform procedures, and hold any guilty parties to account.
Knee jerk reactions, albeit seemingly virtuous, could in fact cause greater pain and suffering. If the government decides to cut its funding to Oxfam, hundreds of well run, life changing projects would be stopped, resulting in hardship and even death for thousands of people. Why should the poorest in our world suffer as the result of the minority? We should not judge an entire organisation because of the actions of the few.
And finally, this news story will cause a drop in charitable giving. As Christians we are called to buck this trend. The Bible is very clear in that we have a responsibility to look after the poorest in society. Charity does not begin at home; it begins everywhere. Generosity is the very DNA of Christian living and we should be leading the way. During this season of Lent as we reflect on how our generous God sacrificed his only son, let our hearts be stirred to give.
We are God's voice, hands and feet. This is our time to speak up and show up! Let's not retreat but rather entreat. Let's pray, campaign and give! Here are a few suggestions to help you with this endeavour:
- Pray for the victims who have been abused
- Write to your MP and ask them to call for the International Development Select Committee to open wide-ranging inquiry into sexual abuse in the aid sector
- Pray for wisdom for Penny Mordant, Secretary of State for International Development, as she and her team investigate this issue further
- Pray for aid workers who are working day in day out for the alleviation of poverty
- Make a generous donation to an international development agency
Louise Davies is the Director of Christians on the Left, and is a member of the leadership team at Hope City Church in Sheffield