World Vision, the largest Christian charity of its kind in the world---about $3 billion annual budget---said on Facebook last week they were "shocked" to learn about the charges.
The New York Times is reporting that Mohammed El Halbi, World Vision manager of their Gaza branch, was "recruited 12 years ago and ordered to infiltrate the Christian charity."
Religion News Service says people have been issuing warnings about this for years and "World Vision refused to seriously investigate where their funds are going."
The New York Times says, "Mohammed El Halbi is charged with infiltrating the charity on behalf of Hamas and funneling about $43 million in the group's funds over the past six years to the military wing of the Islamic militant group."
The Times says, "While neither the World Vision employee...nor the aid group have had a chance to review the evidence and respond to specific charges, the allegations have cast a cloud over nongovernmental organizations [NGO's] in Gaza."
The Times also is reporting that "By Thursday evening in Jerusalem, the Australian government announced the suspension of funding to World Vision's projects in the Palestinian territories. Describing the allegations as 'deeply troubling'."
Briefing reporters on Thursday in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, an official said that Halbi, since becoming manager of the Gaza operation for World Vision, has transferred about 60% of World Vision's budget for Gaza to Hamas.
World Vision says they are "shocked" and "we have no reason to believe the allegations are true."
Tim Costello with World Vision said his organization is "very worried" about the impact the allegations will have on its ability to raise funds.
He says, "We are profoundly shocked by these allegations. We want to get to the bottom of this, we want the truth."
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal rights institute that represents victims of Palestinian terror attacks, told Religion News Service that her group has been issuing warnings about World Vision's activities for years.
World Vision is saying this morning they are calling for a fair legal process and are promising to "carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence."
Others are also expressing concerns about this matter, particularly given World Vision's past biased statements by organization leaders against Israel.
The Christian Post says, "In an essay posted at the Lausanne movement last year, Steve Haas, vice president and chief catalyst for World Vision US, said that the American Christian support for Israel 'has backed the largest and longest occupation of another people group in modern history, an oppressive Israeli legal system which [Archbishop Desmond] Tutu and many other church leaders have called apartheid on steroids'."
World Vision later distanced themselves from Haas' words.
The New York Times says World Vision "has used a sponsor-a-child fund-raising model for five decades to play on the power of personalization, although most of the money is used to finance projects in the child's community rather than going directly to the child or the child's family."
It is true that World Vision was founded 66 years ago a man with a vision.
Several years ago Christianity Today described it like this:
Bob Pierce was an extreme version of post-WWII evangelicalism: entrepreneurial, energetic, independent, and out to evangelize the world. In 1947, the young Youth for Christ evangelist started toward China with only enough money to buy a ticket to Honolulu. That was how things were done in Youth for Christ: God's work overcame all obstacles, and God's workers should "burn out, not rust out." Pierce eventually made it to China, where thousands came to Christ during four months of evangelistic rallies. Hunger was everywhere; communism hammered at the door. A compassionate Pierce was hooked. "My father went to China a young man in search of adventure," his daughter Marilee Pierce Dunker would write. "He came home a man with a mission."
Pierce later wrote haunting words in the flyleaf of his Bible: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." Dragging a movie camera across Asia—China was soon closed—Pierce showed the resulting pictures to church audiences in North America. He asked for money to help children. He showed their faces and begged Christians to "adopt" one. In 1950 he incorporated this personal crusade as World Vision.
In 1959, journalist Richard Gehman wrote that Pierce "cannot conceal his true emotions. He seems to be one of the few naturally, uncontrollably honest men I have ever met."
Pastor Richard Halvorsen wrote that Pierce "prayed more earnestly and importunely than anyone else I have ever known. And that's something that cannot be faked--it was as though prayer burned within him...Bob Pierce functioned from a broken heart."
Indeed he did.
In fact, after his death in 1978, this message was found scrawled inside the cover of his Bible: "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God."
As World Vision grew, there were those within the organization who held a different view than Bob.
He told me---"They pushed me out."
Bob Pierce was not perfect. Some described him as God's imperfect vessel---reflecting on his personal family issues.
In 1967, he resigned from World Vision---the organization that was birthed in God's heart and Bob's heart.
In 1969, he took over a small ministry and renamed it "Samaritans' Purse."
Soon he would ask a young Franklin Graham to join him and eventually take over the ministry. I am honored to have been able to put our church and our daily television program behind Franklin's efforts to build up Samaritan's Purse into the ministry it is today.
A few years ago, World Vision was faced with a different kind of crises, following their official statement on homosexuality---a position that stood in direct conflict to the biblical and evangelical position.
Only days after issuing their statement, they retracted and reversed their position. It was about the money. Thousands of evangelical donors were leaving.
Now this. I don't know all the details behind these allegations of World Vision funneling millions of dollars to a terrorist organization. I assume they will come out eventually.
I do know, however, that today's World Vision bears little resemblance to the World Vision Bob Pierce founded.
Samaritan's Purse, on the other hand, looks very much like what Pierce described as being committed to those things that "break the heart of God."
Be Informed. Be Wise. Be Vigilant. Be Prayerful.