Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should Your Dollars Go to World Vision? A Follow Up.

Is World Vision worthy of your charitable giving? That was the question I posed in a blog post of March 16th, "Japan Relief Dollars: Should They Go to World Vision?" I mentioned in that post that I had sent a note to World Vision and would pass along their response. Printed below are full copies of that correspondence, the latest note from World Vision coming to me just yesterday.

Let me say at the outset that I am pleased that World Vision responded conscientiously to my request. I am grateful and I have told them so. They are a big outfit and could have ignored my note altogether or sent back some kind of form letter. I truly appreciate their direct response. I must admit, however, that even after our correspondence, I remain concerned about World Vision's work. I express those opinions at the conclusion of this post.

Here's how things have developed. First, I received word of caution from a friend about a positive statement I had made about World Vision on my Facebook page. Second, I did a little bit of reading on the web. Those sources are mentioned (and linked) in the blog post I then wrote. Third, there has been the correspondence which I print below.

To World Vision from Denny Hartford, Director of Vital Signs Ministries:

Could you give me plain answers to the following questions. Thank you. 1) Discover the Networks lists World Vision under "Religious Left" organizations. Is that accurate? 2) That same website claims that World Vision "is decidedly supportive of the Palestinian cause and condemnatory of Israel." Furthermore, the article characterizes the general outlook as leftist. "Viewing capitalism as an instrument of societal injustice, greed, and exploitation, WVI favors an economic model based on socialism and the redistribution of wealth." Are these accurate statements? 3) Does World Vision encourage the use of contraceptives? Does it go so far as to encourage "birth control" drugs and devices that work post-conception? And 4) Does World Vision partner in any way with Planned Parenthood or the United Nations Population Fund? Again, thank you for answering these queries.

Just a day or two later, I received this response from World Vision:

Dear Mr. Hartford,

Thank you for contacting World Vision for clarification on the information you recently came across. It is a blessing to be able to serve you!

To ensure that we respond with the best possible information, we are further researching this issue and will contact you within 7 to 10 business days. We appreciate your patience!

If we may be of further assistance, please reply with history to this e-mail or call a Donor Service Representative toll free at 1.888.511.6432. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific Time. We will be glad to help you.

Thank you for your interest in building a better world for children!


[I omit the individual's name.]
Donor Contact Services
World Vision U.S.

And then, true to their word, I received the following letter from World Vision yesterday:

Dear Mr. Hartford,

Thank you again for contacting us regarding the statements about World Vision on Discover the Networks' website. We are thankful for the opportunity to respond to your inquiry.

The owner of this website has the freedom to characterize World Vision without discretion or consultation and we do not agree with the opinions provided. If you would like to learn more about World Vision and read our Statement of Faith, please visit our website using the following link: .

Regarding our work in Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza, World Vision always serves the most needy children in the communities where we work. We never choose to establish our Area Development Programs (ADPs) on the basis of race or religion, but rather on poverty indices alone. The worst poverty is in Palestinian areas. In this region, those areas are found in Jerusalem/West Bank/Gaza and are mostly occupied by Palestinian families. World Vision United States funds these sponsorship programs, as well as sponsorship programs in nearly sixty countries that include children from different religious backgrounds, including Jewish children. However, we do not have a process or system in place to track them based on race, religion, or political background.

You may rest assured that as a child-focused relief, development, and advocacy organization, World Vision's focus is on children. Our concern is that the occupation of Palestinian territories has robbed two generations of both Palestinian and Israeli children of peace, security, economic, and educational opportunities and, most of all, hope.

World Vision's ministry is to relieve human suffering around the world in the name of Jesus Christ. However, many of the countries in which we work experience war, civil unrest, and other violence. The fact that we are helping those in need has been perceived by some as siding with one political faction or another. That is not our intention. World Vision has long advocated for a just peace in the Middle East that recognizes the mutual right of Israelis and Palestinians to live in dignity, equality, and security. We do not condone violence on either side.

In response to your question regarding World Vision's position on family planning, we believe that life begins at conception and encourages family planning programs in areas where the programs are desired by individuals and acceptable to both the culture and government of the region. These programs provide information about healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies and encourage the use of all methods of family planning that are proven not to be abortive in nature. Generally, World Vision does not provide methods of family planning but rather supports the Ministry of Health programs within the countries we serve.

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.

Lastly, World Vision does not support or work directly with Planned Parenthood; however, in some cases, as part of a national network or consortium of agencies working with a nation's national or provincial health ministry, there may be a Planned Parenthood office as a member of the network or consortium. World Vision is not allowed to select or reject members of such a group; in most countries we are required to participate as a condition of working in the country. We are not aware of any such instances in the United States.

We trust this information is helpful. If we may be of further assistance, please reply with history to this e-mail or call a Donor Service Representative toll free at 1.888.511.6432. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific Time. We will be glad to help you.

Thank you for your interest in World Vision as we strive to build a better world for children.

May God bless you,

[I omit the individual's name.]
Donor Contact Services
World Vision U.S.

So, what concerns about World Vision still bother me? 1) There remains, of course, the testimony of those sources that elicited my blog post in the first place. For instance, the quotations taken from World Vision's own material about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict seem to stand -- quotations that Discover the Networks accurately describes as "decidedly supportive of the Palestinian cause and condemnatory of Israel." I had hoped World Vision would now denounce those political statements. They did not. Nor did the letter address the question about socialism and redistribution of wealth.

2) I appreciate very much that World Vision believes life begins at conception. To believe anything else is silly, of course; yet many try quite hard to ignore or distort this basic scientific fact. So I commend them. But, the key question remains. Why must World Vision be in the family planning business at all? I'm quite certain that most of the donors who are sponsoring children and relief efforts are completely unaware of World Vision's involvement in this very controversial area. And I'm pretty sure a large amount of those donors would be disturbed to learn that World Vision has adopted "family planning" as a key part of their mission -- especially when it requires them, as the letter above admits, to be involved in consortia that includes groups like Planned Parenthood.

Of course, you must draw your own conclusions from these letters. Perhaps you'll want to correspond with World Vision yourself. That would be great. As you now know, they will be conscientious and timely in their response.

But, as I said earlier, there remain some serious concerns about World Vision for Claire and me even after this polite and positive correspondence. For instance, we are still worried about the organization's political views regarding socialism and Israel. We do not want our relief contributions going to an organization that has embraced the myths of population control and is aggressive in promoting "family planning." And we are not comfortable with giving money to an organization that works (however unavoidably) with Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes, and the United Nations Population Fund.