Did you ever find yourself close to winning a game of checkers or chess, when your opponent shakes the board, moves all the pieces and declares that nobody won and you will have to start over? That is essentially what the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) has done with their abuse investigation. Maybe it is not great to compare it to playing a game, and winning or losing. It is certainly not a game to the victims of abuse who were looking for some justice. However ABWE seems to have a much lighter view of the investigation, which they have tossed out and restarted with barely even any notification to the people involved.
If you want to refresh your memory or are just finding out about this case, I wrote about it back in April of 2011. You can also read the official blog of the Bangladesh MKs, Abuse By ABWE Mission Doctor in Bangladesh. In May of 2011 ABWE hired Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.) to investigate sexual abuse on their mission field. After almost two years, when the final report was just a few short weeks away, ABWE now shakes the board and topples the pieces, terminating the contract with G.R.A.C.E.
In their news release ABWE states that the process was “fatally flawed” and paints G.R.A.C.E. as incompetent and inexperienced. The truth is that G.R.A.C.E. is made up of former child abuse prosecutors (and others) who have seen hundreds of court room cases, testified as expert witnesses in court and before Congress, developed courses for law schools and even taught thousands of classes on, believe it or not, best investigative practices. ABWE must have hired them in the first place based on this expertise, and it is really surprising that they are now claiming G.R.A.C.E. did not know what they were doing.
ABWE gives eight reasons why they terminated the investigation. They list them out very concisely and give little or no explanation or evidence for their complaints, aside from anonymous quotes by interviewees. On February 11 G.R.A.C.E. published a lengthy response. They go over the objections of ABWE point by point and defend their procedures in great detail. If you read the news release by ABWE, I strongly encourage you to also read through the response by G.R.A.C.E. before you form an opinion about this investigation.
For the record, G.R.A.C.E. states that ABWE had already breached the contract of their investigation by refusing to release documents and provide access to witnesses. They say that they had grounds to break off the contract themselves, but did not do so because of the pain this would have caused the victims. ABWE, on the other hand, makes it clear by their actions that they are not concerned about the feelings of the victims, despite their claims otherwise.
The longer an investigation drags on, the more it gets terminated and postponed and restarted, the more likely that it will just fade away. The evidence that is here today might not be available tomorrow. The victims might get exhausted and discouraged, the perpetrators might die, and the statute of limitations recedes into the distance. It has been over 30 years that missionary kids have been living with the effects of sexual abuse by certain ABWE missionaries, ABWE has known about the abuse since 1989, and MKs have been actively seeking justice in this case for the past 10 years. This mission has masterfully delayed any accountability on their part, and it seems they are once more kicking it down the road.
They have hired a new firm, Professional Investigators International (Pii), to “complete” the investigation, which must essentially mean gathering all the material again since they didn’t like the way it was done in the first place. I assume this will mean all the victims must undergo the difficult interview process again.
My heart goes out to all the ABWE MKs who were victims of abuse, who are once more being mistreated and denied justice by this mission.