In April, a source sent a link to a website which is dedicated to concerns about Christian charity Voice of the Martyrs. Unfortunately, it went on the back burner until today. Although there are aspects of the story I won’t be able to assess, I do think it will be of interest to donors and some of my readers. First, I want to link to a website which raises concerns about a VOM affiliate in Nigeria. Then, I want to present VOM’s response and the counter response from VOM’s critics.
VOM’s primary critics attend Reformation Baptist Church in Youngsville, NC. Critics allege that VOM in the United States ignored a serious situation of abuse and corruption in the Nigeria VOM operation. Watch:
The church has launched a petition at Change.org to call attention to their concerns.
When I raised the issue with VOM in the U.S., I received a rapid response from Todd Nettleton, Chief of Media Relations and Message Integration with VOM. I received the response in mid-April, and don’t know of any more recent comments.
The Voice of the Martyrs Statement on Nigeria Abuse Accusations
April 13, 2017
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. However, the release of this video is not helpful in supporting our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters, bringing the alleged perpetrators of abuse to justice, or providing aid to potential victims of abuse. VOM has taken wise and appropriate action to see that any victims are helped and justice is served, and is committed to continue to do so as we become aware through the investigation process of further actions that will assist the authorities and the alleged victims.
While The Voice of the Christian Martyrs-Nigeria (VOCM) shares historical roots with The Voice of the Martyrs-USA (VOM), both tracing their lineage to Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, it is important to understand that VOM-USA and VOCM-Nigeria are separate and completely autonomous organizations. Each organization has its own leaders and separate boards of directors. VOM-USA has never controlled VOCM-Nigeria’s operations nor its hiring and management of staff.
After repeatedly raising a variety of concerns with VOCM-Nigeria and seeing an unsatisfactory response, VOM-USA ended all funding of VOCM-Nigeria projects in June 2016. Then, in October 2016, VOM-USA informed VOCM-Nigeria in a face-to-face meeting that all relationship between the organizations had been severed.
VOM-USA first learned of allegations of abuse against Isaac Newton-Wusu (the President/CEO of VOCM-Nigeria) in 2011. The allegations were made by a former VOCM-Nigeria staff member who had been fired by Isaac and VOCM-Nigeria’s board of directors for theft. Despite the questionable source of the allegations against Isaac, VOM-USA undertook a thorough investigation and found no evidence of their truth.
In the years following those initial allegations, VOM-USA staff who oversee ministry work to persecuted Christians in Nigeria grew increasingly concerned about overcrowding and quality of care at The Stephen Centre children’s home (operated by VOCM-Nigeria). In addition, VOM-USA had serious questions about the accountability and financial management of VOM-USA funds by VOCM-Nigeria staff members. These multiple concerns were expressed clearly and in writing to Isaac and the VOCM-Nigeria board of directors.
When VOM-USA received a video on Sept. 1, 2016, including interviews with former VOCM-Nigeria staff members claiming to have witnessed abuse by Isaac, VOM-USA had already cut all financial support to VOCM-Nigeria.
VOM-USA staff were surprised to see former VOCM-Nigeria staff members making allegations of abuse in the video when they had not raised those allegations with VOM-USA staff members who visited Nigeria or had involvement with The Stephen Centre or other VOCM projects.
VOM-USA submitted the video and all related information to the FBI for further investigation. VOM-USA will continue to cooperate fully with U.S. and Nigerian authorities in every way possible. 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.
VOM-USA is contracting with an outside child safety ministry to evaluate the methodology of VOM’s work in Nigeria and advise our staff in best-practices to ensure that we are providing the best possible care to those we serve in Nigeria and the other 67 countries where VOM is currently serving persecuted Christians.
Since severing our relationship with VOCM-Nigeria, VOM-USA has continued to assist and support the families of martyrs and other persecuted Christians in northern Nigeria through staff and partners who meet our high standards of accountability, transparency and quality of care. We are providing more than $2 million in care this year to widows, orphans and other Christians in northern Nigeria who have suffered at the hands of Boko Haram and other Muslim extremists.
Nettleton’s response was rapid and to the point of my questions, but after it was released publicly on May 3, critics at Reformation Baptist released their response on the church Facebook page and reproduced here:
Continue reading “The Voice of the Martyrs Controversy”