Dumping American charities from some of the world’s neediest spots seems to be the in thing for foreign governments to do these days with India deciding to boot Compassion International out of the country. Tmatt covered that yesterday.
But Compassion is not alone. A Portland, Ore.,-based charity called Mercy Corps International, with a staff of 5,000 in 45 countries, is getting the heave-ho from Turkey. Mercy Corps is helping 500,000 displaced Syrians who, as everyone knows, need all the help they can get these days. But the Turks feel otherwise.
Compassion is an openly Christian group; a factor that’s been mentioned in coverage of the ouster. And so was Mercy Corps soon after its founding.
So, here’s what the Oregonian had to say about it:
A Portland-based humanitarian agency has been forced to shutter its operations in Turkey, affecting lifesaving help for up to 500,000 people each month in neighboring Syria, according to the group.
Mercy Corps used Turkey as a base for what it called "one of the largest humanitarian operations in Syria." It said the Turkish government rescinded its registration to work in the country after five years there.
"Our operations in Syria will continue, and our priority right now is to limit any adverse effects our departure from Turkey may have on the innocent men, women and children who depend on our assistance," the agency said in a statement. "Our sites in Turkey are closed."
The agency has worked in Turkey since 2012 serving 360,000 men, women and children in Syria and about 100,000 in Turkey, said Christine Bragale, spokeswoman. About 200 Turkish staff members will be laid off, most other expatriate staff have left the country, she said.
Bragale said the agency has not received a reason for the Turkish action. She said a government official told Reuters it's a technical issue related to documentation.
Yeah, right. The Oregonian, of all places, should know Mercy Corps' history but no connections are made.
Is Turkey evicting Mercy Corps for the same reason India is ejecting Compassion International?
Have reporters taken a closer look at Mercy Corps?
Fact is, its web site is scrubbed clean of any religious references now, but it used to be known as a Christian group not that long ago.
Its founder, Dan O’Neill, sprinkles his autobiography with plenty of Christian references, including the fact that he was raised in an Assembly of God family, then married to Cherry Boone, daughter of famed actor/evangelist Pat Boone and his wife Shirley. In 1981, he incorporated Mercy Corps and became a Roman Catholic.
I lived in Portland back then and remember how another convert to Catholicism, singer-songwriter John Michael Talbot, would promote Mercy Corps’ work during his concerts, which is why I always associated the organization with Catholicism. O’Neill is quite clear about his Christian commitment in this 2016 video.
But back in the day, including in this 2004 book, Mercy Corps was known as a Christian humanitarian organization.
However, by 2010, it was making efforts to let media know that it’s not affiliated with any religious group. Still, its Christian roots are known (certainly by this Pakistani news outlet) and I am surprised that no reporter, from Stars and Stripes to the New York Times connected the dots.
Maybe Fox News is right and the reasons behind this are political. It said:
In the increasing welter of warfare in northern Syria, one of the biggest U.S.-based humanitarian organizations operating in the area has become collateral damage, at least temporarily—and perhaps a sign of worsening relations between the government of Turkey and the Trump Administration.
The increasingly authoritarian and thin-skinned government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was presumably well aware already of that impact, in what has become a fragmented and increasingly tense vortex of conflict.
So Erdogan could care less about the refugees? Appears so.
Indeed, Erdogan’s government may well have been making a different point bysidelining one of the most important U.S.-based institutions in the explosive region—just as the U.S. itself has been increasingly sidelined in the diplomatic conversation now ongoing among Russia, Turkey and the Assad regime about how to end Syria’s brutal civil war.
On March 4, Turkey’s foreign ministry issued an angry denunciation of the State Department’s most recently published annual human rights report, issued a day earlier, saying that the parts on Turkey “comprise unacceptable allegations, misrepresentations and interpretations that do not reflect reality,” at a time “when we are faced with unprecedented threats of terrorism posed against the survival of our nation and state.”
Maybe religion has nothing to do with it. But possibly, it does. It might help to ask about that.
For the past 10 years ever since five Muslims killed three Christians in a torture-murder scenario in Malatyia, Turkey hasn’t been known as being hospitable to religions other than Islam. Considering what’s going on with Compassion, reporters would do well to ask if the back story in Turkey is the same.
Photos from Mercy Corps International's Twitter account.