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On The CIA And Christian Missionaries

The recent emergence of the relationship between the mainstream media, elected officials, White conservatives, Black civil rights leaders, a Sudanese opposition group (SPLA/M), and a Christian human rights organization, Christian Solidarity International (CSI), caused us to reflect over a long history of covert relationships between US and foreign intelligence agencies and Christian missionaries. One of the best examples of such was the relationship between the famous Wycliffe Bible Translators and the CIA. The relationship was documented in a book, Thy Will Be Done, written in the 1990s.

According to Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, the association between the intelligence community and Christian missionaries predates the public emergence of the CIA. In Thy Will Be Done, they write of the Wycliffe Bible Translator's (also known as the Summer Institute of Linguistic -SIL) and its founder William Cameron Townsend's (also known as "Cam") association with the intelligence community.

"This was not the first time that SIL had served U.S. government intelligence purposes during the war. In 1942, after discussions in Washington with "some men who are interested in furthering good will between our countries", Cam specifically requested SIL's Mexico City office to solicit reports from "any of our workers who may have observed efforts on the part of anyone to make the Indians think that Americans are not their friends." Cam's directive ended with a message, "Please give my regards to Mr. Lockett in case you should see him in this connection." Thomas Lockett, commercial attaché', was Cam's confidential contact at the embassy after Ambassador Daniels departed in 1941. Lockett carried out intelligence missions for Washington, identifying suspected Nazi sympathizers and their companies for (Adolf) Berle and (Nelson) Rockefeller. SIL was one of his intelligence sources.

"SIL had helped gather anthropological information on the Tarascan Indians that ended up in Nelson Rockefeller's intelligence files. The files contained cross-references to reveal behavioral patterns among Indian peoples in everything from socialization (including aggressive tendencies) and personality traits, drives, emotions, and language structure, to political intrigue, kinship ties, traditional authority, mineral resources, exploitation, and labor relations. Rockefeller called these data the Strategic Index of Latin America."

While the majority of SIL or the Wycliffe Bible translators work with the intelligence agencies took place in Latin America they also worked hand in hand with the CIA in Asia,

"As souls ascended to heaven in the flight against Satan, many clergy became direct collaborators with the CIA. One member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) was proud of this collaboration. William Carlsen, a missionary in northeastern Thailand, considered it " a privilege to share information with responsible agencies of the government where they seek us out." Carlsen gave an eight-hour briefing to the CIA on Thailand's tribal areas when he returned home for a furlough. Most C&MA missionaries did likewise, according to a CIA source. Most of the information gleaned was about people, their actions, opinions, and grievances."

Interestingly, the link between the CIA and missionary groups was quite often the US Agency for International Development (AID). This is written of in great detail in Thy Will Be Done:

"William Cameron Townsend watched the controversy over the CIA's use of missionaries with curiosity and growing alarm. The CIA's penetration of religious missions, an issue previously overlooked by the media, was now, in 1975, making international headlines.

"The story had been building since 1970, when Dr. Eric Wolfe, chair of the American Anthropological Association's ethics committee, explained how anthropologists had been manipulated through the Chiang Mai Tribal Research Center in northern Thailand, which was funded through the Agency for International Development (AID). He also revealed that American missionary organizations had been drawn into this counterinsurgency operation as well.

"That June, President Nixon's director of AID, John Hannah, had admitted publicly that AID had funded CIA operations in Laos, and subsequent revelations pointed to CIA-AID collaboration in Ecuador, Uruguay, Thailand and the Philippines. These revelations could hurt all missionary efforts, but the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) was particularly vulnerable. Cam Townsend had been aggressively pursuing government funding for his Bible translators for decades, first from foreign governments and then from his own government. The amendment to the 1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act that allowed religious missions to take surplus U.S. government property abroad had even been called "Townsend's bill" in some congressional circles. By the 1960s, SIL was receiving a hefty income from AID indirectly through foreign governments that received U.S. foreign aid or directly through AID-funded programs in bilingual education and agricultural development cooperatives. This income was supplemented by surplus military equipment, including helicopters that were retired from Vietnam and donated to SIL. Evangelized pilots of these choppers became soldiers for Christ in the tradition of Dawson Trotman's Navigators. In Peru, after the nationalization of Standard Oil, the head of the U.S. Embassy's AID office even became a member of SIL."

Establishing a direct link between missionaries, US AID, the CIA and other intelligence agencies like the NSA, is not a very difficult task. The question for the Black electorate, in the Western Hemisphere and Africa is how such a history impacts on the monopoly of thought that Christian Solidarity International has obtained over the issue of the Sudan, influencing members of the US Congress and the British parliament, as well as White Conservatives and Black Civil Rights leaders?

And finally, what does all of this have to do with President Bush's new appointment to head US AID, Andrew Natsios and his decision, this month, to make Mr. Natsios the special humanitarian coordinator to monitor aid deliveries in Sudan?

We were intrigued by President Bush's recent emphasis on making sure that aid deliveries reached the people of the Sudan as opposed to being stolen and misappropriated by the Sudanese government. We were interested in President Bush's comments because it has been documented by many human rights groups and even the US government that it has been the SPLA, the Sudanese opposition group, that has been foremost in stealing foreign aid, food and resources before they reach the Sudanese people. Again, human rights groups have documented this information and provided it to the White House and members of the US Congress. But Republicans and Democrats alike, have done and said nothing.

Not surprisingly, Christian Solidarity International, who works hand in hand with the SPLA in arranging its "slavery redemptions", has been silent on such abuses, as have all of those in the anti-slavery coalition in America. The missionary and human rights work of Christians in the Sudan seems to dovetail rather nicely with the foreign policy objectives of the US and Britain in that part of Africa.

A coincidence?

Will Andrew Natsios' work in the Sudan continue US AID's tradition of "counterinsurgency" work? And what is there to be learned of the relationship between US AID and CSI?

There is so much more to this "slavery" in the Sudan issue than most imagine...

Cedric Muhammad

Sunday, May 13, 2001

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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