Saturday, October 6, 2012

World Vision's Disturbing Partnership

The Independent Lens/Half the Sky movie premiered on PBS this week. The movie is the outgrowth of a movement sparked by a book of the same name from NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.  I review the book here.  As I show in my review, the book is flawed by the premises of its authors who are staunch abortion rights supporters with a prejudice against Christianity.  Their aim is more than simply admirable but their approach is so flawed that their work and the organization cannot be commended to Christians.

In spite of this, the Half the Sky phenomenon has been heavily promoted by Carolyn Custis James (echoing it in the title of her own book, Half the Church) who invited WuDunn to speak at the last Synergy conference and has used her blog and twitter feed to regular promote the Kristof/WuDun work.  Half the Sky has also been promoted by Bill Hybels and Willow Creek who turned over all three services one weekend this past May to an interview with Kristof (my reaction and video of the event available here). Willow Creek also had WuDunn speak as "faculty" for their summer leadership institute.  While Kristof is more widely known as a NYT columnist, WuDunn is every bit as dangerous to the health and well being of women around the world as evidenced by her TED talk linked in this post . In that talk, WuDunn peddles the repeatedly discredited overpopulation myth while also advocating the putting aside of morality for pragmatics in "helping" women. Putting together the overpopulation myth with education advocacy, it becomes clear that WuDunn thinks the best way to help women is to ensure they have fewer babies.  Never mind that the overpopulation and  "reproductive rights" that WuDunn supports have overwhelming victimized (before they are even born) the littlest women on the planet to the point where demographers estimate the number of missing girls may be as high as 200 MILLION.

Even though I knew many Christians had been shocked into indignation by the atrocities Kristof and WuDunn reveal, in preparing to watch the documentary I was caught up short when I noticed on the bottom right corner of the page listing sponsors that World Vision is a featured partner of the Half the Sky Movement:

Holding onto a bit of disbelief, I telephoned World Vision and was asked to email them my concerns.  I sent an email including many of the same links I am including in this blog post here. I also contacted some friends for feedback, one of whom responded to World Vision with a letter of his own (he is a pastor, theologian and missionary in Africa who well knows the devastation and abuse that western aid agencies with a pro-abortion/birth control agenda visit upon women they deem in need of their help). My concern is not simply the abortion agenda, for I understand there are legitimate projects upon which Christian groups can work with secular groups without compromising the pro-life beliefs of the Christian group.  But this is not simply a limited cooperation for a particular project, this is a major partnership which World Vision is promoting on their own web site.  

By doing so, World Vision is not simply partnering with a new movement, they are partnering with the partners of Half the Sky as well. Other partners include Marie Stopes International and Center for Reproductive Rights the former is a major international abortion provider and the latter an international advocate for uninhibited "reproductive freedom". The abortion/overpopulation agenda is neatly tied together by having the Gates Foundation as a major funder .  Melinda Gates, you may know, has created some controversy by claiming there is No Controversy in contraception. 

Because of these concerns I have outlined above, it was with deep disappointment and sadness that I received World Vision's response to my concerns.  I include the body of their response here (excluding a few words of greeting and closing which are particular to my relationship to them and past sponsorship).  Please take note that, while they assert their pro-life views, they both defend their partnership with Half the Sky as well as making positive references to family planning:

World Vision is one of 32 partners with Half the Sky, and some of these groups may approach maternal health and family planning differently than World Vision. However, we are working together toward a common goal to help women and girls reach their God-given potential in a world that would allow them to freely live, work, and express themselves. As World Vision addresses serious issues that affect the poorest of the poor, we belong to advocacy and technical networks that may include groups with whom we disagree on theological grounds or certain issues. This does not mean we endorse their positions on other issues or support these organizations. However, we are working toward the same goal, which is preserving lives and advancing the cause of those in need.
We share your concern for the well-being of all children, including those in their mother's womb. For more than 60 years World Vision has been working to save the lives of these children who are so near our Savior's heart-not only to save their lives, but to break the cycle of poverty so that they, their children, and their children's children can live healthy, productive lives.
Please be assured that World Vision inexorably opposes the use of abortion, as it runs contrary to everything for which we stand. All of World Vision's efforts seek to save, extend, and enhance life. World Vision's policy denies the use or promotion of abortion as a method of family planning in any of its projects.
World Vision's survival programs have saved countless lives of children and their mothers. Through improved nutrition, diarrhea control, expanded immunization, and birth spacing, families are healthier and more of their children are surviving the first few perilous years of life.
We are concerned that much of the progress we have seen in the lives of mothers and their children might be reversed if families do not have access to maternal education on topics such as birth spacing methods and prolonged breast-feeding practices. Children born to mothers who are too young or too old have a diminished chance of survival. The health of the mother and all children in a family is affected when births are too close together.
World Vision believes that life begins at conception and encourages family planning programs, that are proven not to be abortive in nature, in areas where the programs are desired by individuals and acceptable to both the culture and government of the region. World Vision faces challenging issues of economics and culture in its sponsorship communities around the world. Our aim is to ensure the survival of each child through community development and health efforts. We believe family planning and child spacing are only part of our efforts to enable families to enjoy healthier lives.

Nearly half a century ago, the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae fell like a bombshell on the Catholic Church as well as the wider world.  It was widely ignored, condemned and a year later termed a dead letter.  And yet the intervening decades have shown that the four broad predictions Paul VI made have come to pass.  One of them was the prediction that there would be a coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.  Here is just one example of US foreign aid being tied to family planning.  In this, governments and foundations such as Gates work together to promote abortion, sterilization and birth control. It is not a beast you can tame, thinking you have forged a relationship of trust -- and then turn your back on it.  

Because of this, I have informed World Vision that I will not be sponsoring another orphan.  In fact, I will not knowingly give them one thin dime of my money so long as they are partnering with groups promoting practices that harm women, men and their children.  

I urge you to consider doing the same.  Contact World Vision and tell them you will not support an organization that joins hands with the Culture of Death.


Jenny said...

Our family has been a child sponsor for one particular WV child for at least 9 years now. I really detest their double-mindedness and hypocrisy here, but what would you suggest about terminating support for the child (Bangladeshi) in this case?

in Him,

Kamilla said...


A friend asked me this question at church yesterday. I've been urged to continue looking into WorldVision on the financial aspect - how deeply is the money entangled, etc.

But I think this question is more urgent.

Frankly, I don't care if it's $1 or $1,000,000 it's too much. But what do we do about the children?

For now, I wouldn't advise anyone to drop current sponsorship of a child. I think it might be a good idea to contact WV and let them know of your displeasure with this partnership and (if you plan to) that you will not be sponsoring a child through them in the future.

I would also recommend to keep a eye on your sponsored child's age - and if you are on automatic donations, make sure they don't just switch you to another child when yours ages out of sponsorship. I've been told this is sometimes the practie.

Jenny said...

Thank you.

Paul Petry said...

Don't want to send your money to an organization who turns a blind eye to killing of unborn children? Wondering who to support?
Check out Pilgrim:

Anonymous said...

I cannot fully express in words how much this issue has directly affected my life and the life of my family. My husband worked for World Vision for almost 4 years, and we were so thrilled, as Christians, to be a part of that organization. Until June 2010, when my husband came home from work, deeply disappointed, as he had discovered World Vision's plan to aquire and distribute certain forms of birth control medications and IUDs, AND an internal WV policy justifying the use of "plan B birth control" methods in certain situations for it's international employees (I had to read this for myself to believe it). Over the next few months, my husband raised the issue with several World Vision senior reps, hoping what he read was somehow a mistake, or that WV would make immediate changes to remove itself from participating in something so obviously against its' supposed core values and Christian mission. We finally realized WV wasn't about to change this agenda to "help" women in this way. We spent hours researching birth control, and it's relation to international aid, and what other non-profit relief organizations were doing in this arena. We contacted an expert in the area of international maternal health and a well respected local pro-life advocate. At best we came to the conclusion that you did in your "Half the Sky" post...."the cure won't work in the long run because they are treating the symptoms and not the root cause", and at worst, WV was in fact endorsing murder. Perhaps the hardest decision we've ever had to make was that my husband could not stay and work for WV in good conscience. This meant finding another job, which resulted in a very difficult move for us and our four young children, away from family and friends. I'm not saying this is what anyone in our shoes should do; it was a very personal conviction and decision for us, and we weren't forced to do it. At times, we felt so alone in our decision, and we wanted to shout out "IS ANY other LIFE affirming, Gospel believing Christian out there seeing this too, or are we just crazy?" My husband and I are forever changed by this, and our lives are dedicated to speaking out on behalf of choosing life giving solutions, when even well meaning folks compromise their faith by turning a blind eye to the truth, all in hopes to getting bandaids on big gushing wounds. "Birth spacing", "family planning" are not bad terms in and of themselves, but take the time to learn HOW these are being accomplished before endorsing. The attack on human life can be incredibly subtle and comes in many different forms, ex: the term "overpopulation".
Thank you so much for taking the time to bring this complex, hugely ignored, and extremely important issue to light.

Kamilla said...


Would you be willing to contact me via email?

I'd like to know more about your situation and where you ended up. I'm not done with this and hope to write more before the end of the year.


Chip said...

Just wondering if you have found out anymore. We are getting ready to do what has been traditionally a "30 Hour Famine" with our youth group. Since it has been associated with World Vision, I would prefer to change it. I know that Catholic Relief Services does a 20 Food Fast. I would like to take information to our priest so he understands my concerns.

Sue Schlagel said...

Thank you for your post, and anonymous for her comments. Several years ago we notified World Vision that we would not be sponsoring any further children. We continued to sponsor through graduation, but added no new children. The reason was, after spending significant time in the Middle East, and working with Christians there, my husband found that World Vision was destroying the testimony of local Christians by co-opting the Gospel with Islam. (Later we discovered the same was taking place with regard other religions.) So, this, unfortunately comes as no surprise. There are other organizations some large some small helping women and children, but in Christ's name, boldly, using His methods.

Carolyn Heuser said...

Thank you, everyone for your comments. I've been a World Vision sponsor since 1990. I now sponsor a number of children through them, and I am considering dropping sponsorship. And this has been the only site I've found so far with such fact-based, credible, informative comments.

Kamilla, thanks for your blog! Have you learned anything new that isn't included in this discussion?

And, Sue, could I ask what you mean when you say that WV was "co-opting the Gospel with Islam"?

Thanks so much!