Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Willfull Blindness (February-March 2017)

Open Your Eyes—Listen to Your Conscience

Image source: Dreamstime

If you are human
then there is a good chance you can succumb to willful blindness.
Likely a 100% chance.

If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but because you say. ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
John 9:41

This entry continues the call to the international church-mission community (CMC) to practice the highest standards of transparency and accountability. It specifically encourages people to unite and confront the Nordic Capital Investment KB fraud (NCI) which has seriously damaged many peoples’ lives and the reputation of the church-mission community (CMC). "...the time has come to make [the fight against corruption] a truly global effort among evangelicals....if the church becomes more vociferous in its opposition to corruption...then we must beware of the risk of hypocrisy if our own house is not put in order first....We must not turn a blind eye to or condone corruption....” Salt and Light: Christians' Role in Confronting Corruption (Lausanne Global Conversation, 31 October 2011)

Willful blindness is intentionally keeping oneself unaware of facts that would make one morally/ethically responsible. It involves looking the other way in order to avoid problems and protect oneself, usually at the expense of others. Part One of this entry presents three helpful resources to help open our eyes to our own willful blindness: Margaret Heffernan’s book, TedTalk, and BBC interview. Part Two updates us on the Shine the Light-Together petition and its request for verifiable disclosures and independent reviews regarding the NCI fraud. Specific names of leaders are listed again below along with links to other organizational leaders and Board members who carry a special responsibility to assist and hold themselves and fellow leaders accountable.

This entry provides both an opportunity and tools
to open our eyes and to listen to our consciences.

Part One: Willful Blindness

In the case of the US Government versus Enron, the presiding judge chose to employ the legal concept of willful blindness: you are responsible if you could have known, and should have known, something which instead you strove not to see. The guilty verdict sent shivers down the spine of the corporate world. In this book, Margaret Heffernan draws on psychological studies, social statistics, interviews with relevant protagonists, and her own experience to throw light on willful blindness and why whistleblowers and Cassandras are so rare. Ranging freely through history and from business to science, government to the family, this engaging and anecdotal book will explain why willful blindness is so dangerous in a globalized, interconnected world, before suggesting ways in which institutions and individuals can start to combat it. Margaret Heffernan's thought-provoking book will force us to open our eyes.” (description from Amazon site)

The Dangers of Willfull Blindness, TEDxDubai (2013), Margaret Heffernan
“Gayla Benefield was just doing her job -- until she uncovered an awful secret about her hometown that meant its mortality rate was 80 times higher than anywhere else in the U.S. But when she tried to tell people about it, she learned an even more shocking truth: People didn't want to know. In a talk that's part history lesson, part call-to-action, Margaret Heffernan demonstrates the danger of "willful blindness" and praises ordinary people like Benefield who are willing to speak up.” (quote from Youtube site)

BBC Interview
Willful Blindness, BBC World Service, Business Daily (16 December 2014) Margaret Heffernan
“Margaret Heffernan explores why big organisations so often make big mistakes - and asks if the cure could be the aviation industry's model of a 'just culture'. In the past 10 years, there have been a string of organisational failures - from BP to the banks, and the Catholic Church in Ireland. In each instance, hundreds, even thousands of people could see what was going on but acted as though they were blind. Silence ensured the problems continued and allowed them to grow. The conditions that create the phenomenon called 'willful blindness' are pervasive across institutions. It was a term that came up in the Enron scandal. Willful blindness is a legal term - it states that if there is knowledge you could have had and should have had, you are still responsible. Businesswoman and writer Margaret Heffernan argues that the solution is a 'just culture'; which means organisations that encourage people to speak up early and often when things go adrift, without fear of being silenced.” (quote from BBC site)

Part Two: NCI Update

In December 2016 there was a renewed effort for people to read, sign, and share the STL petition. We are pleased to report that we quickly hit our goal and there are now over 200 signatures on the petition, with several people renewing their signatures/comments. “This petition is a call to many organizations and people, especially in the church and mission community (CMC), to assist by transparently and verifiably disclosing how they have been affected by Nordic Capital Investment KB fraud (NCI). In addition, members of these organizations (past and present), donors, and the public are asked to help by respectfully and resolutely calling for the assistance of those affected by NCI.”

Comments from Signatories (excerpts)
--There is a story here that EVERYONE should know. Everyone should have the opportunity to evaluate whether the ends justify the means.

--I thought honesty and Christianity went together, but this case has proved that Christians look after themselves, literally, not even each other, and prefer ignorance, I cannot believe in all these years that not a single Christian has had the backbone to push on those in power in their organisations to answer difficult questions. Proverbs 8:5--O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.

--Of all of the organizations and communities that abound in our world, the church and mission community ought to be the one leading the way in manifesting integrity and transparency. I view this issue as an imperative for all people and organizations of faith.

--What an unfortunate and hurtful situation caused by an organization you trusted. I hope this petition will help provide transparency in future dealings.

--No matter what good you are trying to do or who you are, any such toxin poisons the entire pool.

--I believe uniting to fight corruption and standing together in solidarity around this petition is critical. It is an important way forward toward knowing the truth, promoting healing, and building greater capacity in the church and mission community.

--Although we did not personally become involved in the fraudulent investment program…we had first hand experience of the activities that devastated the lives of mission families who invested their life savings and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We stand with those who await justice in this crucial matter.

--Hopefully people will a) get (further) informed about corruption and the importance of transparency-accountability, and b) hold their respective leaders and organizations accountable regarding this specific, protracted fraud. Perhaps leaders themselves will finally take the initiative to disclose and as necessary break rank.

--May 200 signatures become 200 million!

More Background
It has been over nine years since the NCI KB fraud began to be publically confronted (July 2007). It has also been over two years since four of the organizations included in the Shine the Light-Together petition and several of their leaders were formally presented with the petition, asking for their assistance and that they inform other leaders in their organizations. Leaders in Youth With A Mission, Mercy Ships, Youth For Christ, and Crossroads Church (Ferney-Voltaire, France) received separate email-letters in August 2014 regarding the petition with the names and comments of 200+ people who signed it.  The letters were then posted on the PETRA People weblog 28 September 2014. Below are the names of the leaders contacted and links for additional leaders/Board Members, etc. (Click here to see the paper trail: (August 2014--current).

--Youth With A Mission:  Loren Cunningham, Darlene Cunningham, Lynn Green, Jim Stier, Tom Hallas, Iain Muir, and YWAM leaders/staff around the world. “We would be grateful if you (YWAM leaders/staff around the world) would carefully review the petition and Statement with links to core documents.” Click here to view the list of international offices from the organization’s website, many which link to specific leaders.

--Mercy Ships: Donovan and Mae Palmer. “We would be grateful if you could please review the petition and its links to core documents and share it with members of the international Mercy Ships Executive Committee and others Board members (e.g., Don Stephens as President, Myron Ullman as Chair, Rosa Whitaker, Francoise Andre, Ian McColl, and Peter Schulze as Vice-Chairs, etc.). Click here to view the list of International Board Members and the Executive Committee from the organization’s website

--Youth For Christ: Geordon Rendle and John Duncan (and with Larry Williams in 2015).  “We also believe it would be very important to share the petition with other board members/officers at Youth for Christ and the previous staff at YFC in Coppet, Switzerland.” Click here to view the list of International Board Members from the organization’s website.
--Crossroads Church (Ferney-Voltaire, France):  Larry Lloyd and Ian Rutter. "We would be grateful if you could please review the petition and its links to core documents and then share the petition with other current/former elders and officers at Crossroads and current/former members and attendees at Crossroads.” Click here to view the list of elders, officers, and pastors from the organization’s website.

Update February 2017: We are not aware of any further action undertaken by organizations to investigate and disclose how they may have been affected by NCI KB in line with the specific concerns in the petition. A few individuals over the past months have sent personal emails, but nothing official and nothing related to taking any action. Click here to see the paper trail: (August 2014--current). We thus continue the resolute, public call a) for assistance from all those affected in various ways by the NCI fraud; and b) for verifiable disclosures/independent reviews (transparency and accountability) by four of the organizations listed in the petition. It would also be in keeping with good practice for transparency, accountability, and organizational health that these organizations thoroughly review how they have and/or have not actually dealt with the requests for assistance over the years.

Open your eyes.
Listen to your conscience.

PETRA People Network
PETRA People Network was set up in 2010. We are committed to promoting peace, transparency, and accountability in all sectors of society and especially in the international Christian community. Our general focus is on preventing and confronting corruption and on promoting personal and organizational integrity. Our specific focus is on the Nordic Capital Investments KB fraud (NCI).

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