An Irish church minister was planning his first visit to a country in the developing world. A programme of meetings was arranged for him, his flight and hotels booked, the handbills and posters had been printed, and his congregation was supporting his mission trip in prayer. However, the entire venture looked as if it might be derailed at the last moment.
He had, so he thought, applied for his visa in good time yet every imaginable trick and delaying tactic known to bureaucracy had been used to frustrate his good intentions. He had filled out forms online, supplied references and bank statements and had even queued at the post office several times to ensure that the postal order for the visa fees was made out exactly as required.
Now, on his fifth visit to the embassy, he had only one day left before his departure. Surely there would be no more delays? Surely God would answer his prayers and he would be able to collect his passport with the necessary visa stamped and approved?
The embassy official held the passport in his hand but his words were heavy with regret. “I’m sorry, reverend, but there is a problem with your passport.”
The pastor stared at him in disbelief, “You’ve got to be kidding! What on earth is wrong with my passport?”
The official shuffled his feet, “There appears to be a page missing.”
“What are you talking about? There are no pages missing. It’s a standard 34-page passport and every one of the pages is in place.”
“No, reverend,” repeated the official meaningfully, “You don’t understand me. There is a page missing from your passport.”
Suddenly, the church minister understood what the official was saying. In his mind’s eye, he could imagine making a long distance phone call to cancel his trip. He could imagine his seat on the plane lying empty and remembered his ticket was non-refundable. He thought of thousands of unused posters and handbills gathering dust somewhere. He imagined the disappointment of all the under-resourced ministers that were expecting him. With a deep sigh he reached into his pocket, removed a twenty euro note and inserted it into his passport.
The embassy official beamed at him. “Congratulations, reverend, now all the pages are in your passport. Here is your visa and may you enjoy your visit to our beautiful country!”
That minister left the embassy feeling dirty and ashamed – but also relieved. His trip would not now be cancelled. But in the process, he had stepped into a world he had never imagined he would enter – the world of bribery and corruption.
Corruption feeds off desperation. The more desperate we become, the more we have to lose, the more likelihood there is that we will compromise our values and standards. The minister in this true story had very little to lose compared to an African mother with a seriously ill child, or an Indian man who needs an official document stamped to prevent his family’s home being demolished. The insidious cruelty of corruption means that the most desperate people of all, and that tends to be the poorest and most marginalised people in our world, are the ones who have to pay bribes (or ‘juice’) in order to receive basic human rights and services.
This is why Evangelical Alliance Ireland is joining a coalition of charities, NGO’s, businesses and individuals to shine the light on corruption. The “Exposed Campaign” is seeking to gather one million signatures supporting a petition to expose and eradicate corruption. The plan is to present the petition to world leaders as they attend the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, in November 2014.
On Sunday 29 June, Solid Rock Church in Drogheda has designated their Sunday morning service as “Exposed Sunday”. They have sent invitations to the media and to business and political leaders. Church members are making an all-out effort to invite their friends and neighbours to be part of signing the “Exposed” petition.
We hope and believe that other churches and individuals in Ireland will care enough about this global problem to become part of a global solution. It would be wonderful if, between now and November, other churches could also have an “Exposed Sunday”. Imagine if local believers in every part of Ireland were motivated to approach their politicians, schools and businesses so that Ireland could make a significant contribution to the campaign.
This is not a ‘feel good’ campaign whereby we in Ireland virtuously tut-tut at the goings on in other parts of the world. We all need to ask ourselves how much we are involved in the problem of corruption. We may never have felt desperate enough to insert a twenty euro note in a passport – but how many of the products we use on a daily basis are made by multinational corporations who manipulate residency laws to avoid paying a fair rate of tax? How would we feel if a less corrupt tax regime were to impact the Irish economy’s fragile recovery, thereby adding to the rates of tax we pay, or adding a fraction of a percent to our mortgage rates? The “Exposed Campaign” is a call to reflection and self-examination, while also being a call to action.
If you would like to know how you can be a part of this major Christian initiative then begin by visiting the Exposed Campaign website and signing the petition online at www.exposedcampaign.com.
Use Facebook and other social media to spread the word to your friends. If pastors and church leaders would like help in setting up an Exposed Sunday in their church then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corruption is cruel and wicked but together we can shine a light rather than curse the darkness.
Nick Park is Executive Director of the Evangelical Alliance Ireland and pastor of Solid Rock Church in Drogheda, Co. Louth.