Monday, January 12, 2009

When things go nasty

A report by a national UK newspaper over the weekend has added a nasty element to the story of David and Fiona Fulton, a British couple jailed in Gambia on charges of sedition.  To be honest, I don't know if the report is accurate or not and having read a recent interview of Fiona's father, I am not sure that anyone knows the full truth.

And that's the problem with this story, as one of our commenters had been pointing out for the past few days. There is just so much confusion and contradictory reporting going on. A few things are clear, however. 

It is obvious, for example, that this couple was far from being the perfect missionary couple.  Not that anyone is, but this couple seems to have a few more "warts" than most. It may even be suggested that they had no business being in Gambia, if half of the accusations are true.  Their story underlines the need for accountability in ministry, if nothing else.  It is difficult to identify anyone who can really speak on their behalf now, since they seem to have gone to Gambia on their initiative without meaningful backing from or accountability to another mission organization or denomination.

It is also clear to me that this couple got in trouble not because they were Christians, per se, but because of a lack of wisdom.  There is a difference.  We are to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves, Jesus said in Matthew 10:16. As I mention in my book, in the face of persecution, it is easy to lose self-control and do foolish things—to respond with fear, and thereby compromise with the enemy. On the other hand, there is the equal danger of wrongly understanding courage, to provoke the authorities and deliberately attract persecution. Wisdom is needed to know what to do, where to stand, and what not to do, so that when suffering comes, it is truly for the sake of Christ and not because of one’s own foolishness (page 121).

To that end, I am going to stop doing updates on this couple for the time being.  I am no longer certain that this case is one of true Christian persecution. I still contend that the penalty was too severe for the "crime" but we do no one any favour by sanctifying it either as persecution, when it is by no means certain to be such.  If you disagree, feel free to let me know.  


Bene Diction said...

I don't disagree. I think you've pointed out the differences clearly.

The Daily Mail is a rag, and some of what was written could have been planted by the FO to assist The Gambia President save face. When he met with foreign Christians at the New Year, he was self serving, praising the good they do in the country. He quoted from a Fulton email and said, "they are not Christian." I assumed he said it to justify the courts decision, but in the report from an African paper, there was no response from the missionaries who were present.

What could they say?

The President aside, the discrepencies in the Fulton story stand on their own. The father's statements. The drop in donations from the church which has posted on their plight after the child was born. The lack of friends coming forward in reputable UK and African media to testify to their character.
The lack of bail money even though Mr. Fulton had a Land Rover and expensive boat.
The few who spoke up for them took what they heard as gospel truth. There were few.

No mention of them on the organization they claimed to work with.

I believe any one of us can be conned. I was going to link you to the Jakarta article, glad you found it.

Thank you for standing for the persecuted and knowing the difference.
You and I disagree on some issues, so what? You disagree with respect. You know Jesus, that's so apparent, you have integrity and strength to speak for those who cannot. You value truth and have the maturity of compassion. That is what matters.

Thank you for your carefulness in the Fulton situation and your willingness to use all at your disposal to weigh various claims from various sources.

They will remain in my prayers. With no accountability and a frustrated consulate who has hinted the Fultons aren't helping their situation, they may have to serve their time and I agree with you on the harshness of the sentence. They may not be willing at this time to return to the UK, especially now that international media has done some digging.

Did the boat come from UK or Canadian donations? We don't know. The email snippets we have seen are damning.
If they survive a full sentence, get deported, serve shorter sentences I am still saddened. I don't think they will receive they help they really need from a church, para chruch organization; professionals.

I think the book is real and I wonder who will be publishing it.

The FO getting them home might leave them open to fraud charges in the UK. We don't know. Thank you for looking at your sources, checking weighing what has been said and where.

You still would not want me working for you, I'd still drive you nuts.
I'll have to read your book sometime.

I'm still following this, I'll drop a comment when governments and courts have made decisions.

Bene D

Matthew said...

Sadly, I have to agree. It is always disappointing when the warts of prominent Christians are exposed and the name of Jesus is shamed instead of glorified. I pray that His work in Gambia will not be hindered because of this and I am reminded as a hopeful future missionary that, like you say, accountability is incredibly important in this work.

alan leonard said...

Your coverage has been even-handed and appreciated. After the story was brought out, and the unfavorable aspects became known, it wasn't dropped to hide things. That transparency and integrity is appreciated.

Until there is clarity and things can be seen for what they are, you are not obligated to speculate. Should the situation becomes clear, a reliable update would be welcome.

In the meantime, my prayer is that the Fultons will find life and strength in Christ while in prison, both to endure as well as to have a ministry there. Past stories on this site have told of those who have had great impact in prison. While some of the reports, if true, indicate much in them that is so unlike the Lord, yet Christ remains their hope and way forward. Who knows what the Lord may yet do in and thru them?

Thanks also for the update on the children, it's good to know that they're being cared for by family.

Anonymous said...

"A US-based human rights group has appealed to the Gambian Government to pardon a British missionary couple imprisoned after being found guilty of sedition.

International Christian Concern called on the Gambian Government to grant clemency to David and Fiona Fulton, who were sentenced in December to one year’s hard labour and fined £6,500 after admitting to publishing emails with seditious comments with intent to bring hatred or contempt against the president or the government."

From Christian Today UK
Sort on facts, but hearts in the right place

Bene D

Glenn Penner said...

I agree.