Letters to the Editor

by Our Readers Write

The Practice of Bribery
Jason Richard Tan has offered us a valuable reflection on the ethically complex issue of discerning between bribery, extortion, payment, and gift in cross-cultural contexts (July 2011).

The Practice of Bribery
Jason Richard Tan has offered us a valuable reflection on the ethically complex issue of discerning between bribery, extortion, payment, and gift in cross-cultural contexts (July 2011). The matter is complex and missionaries do well to consult with trusted Christian friends in the contexts to which they have been called. Sensitivity to the local context is vital in mission work. However, missionaries remain nationals of their passport countries and also need to bear in mind these contexts. They are inevitably caught in a tension between contexts.

The U.K., for instance, has strong anti-bribery laws which apply even to missionaries abroad. Tan quotes Mayer and Hu that in some contexts government officials are not adequately compensated and that what might be termed a bribe in the West is viewed locally as a payment for a service. While this may be the case, if U.K. missionaries offer, promise, or give such gifts, they may be in breach of the U.K. Bribery Act (2010) and open to prosecution.  

U.K. government guidelines acknowledge that duress involving risk to life, limb, or liberty may form a proper defense to succumbing to the demand for a bribe. They take a firmer stance, however, regarding “facilitation payments,” which they define as “small bribes to facilitate routine government actions” and they do so for essentially ethical reasons.

There are thus added ethical and legal considerations for missionaries when facing the matter of gifts and facilitation payments. Whether or not it is ethical or culturally appropriate, facilitation payments may be illegal in one’s country of origin. In making them, mission personnel would open themselves to prosecution, and their mission and the gospel vulnerable to reputational damage in their home context. The mission community needs to reflect more upon this issue, seek God’s direction about such ethical dilemmas, and take care not to start down a slippery slope.
Martin Lee, executive director, Global Connections
—Keith Walker, director, SIM-UK

Editor’s Note: EMQ Friend and Colleague David Mays Goes Home to Be with the Lord
On January 2, 2012, our dear friend and colleague David Mays went to be with Jesus. David served as the director of learning initiatives for The Mission Exchange since 2007. Before that, he was the Great Lakes regional director for ACMC, Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment. In addition to serving for many years on our EMQ editorial advisory committee, David was point person for The Mission Exchange EMQ column, connecting us to a wonderful variety of leaders in mission and evangelism. We will miss him dearly, but thank God for his friendship and contribution to local, national, and global mission.

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EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 132. Copyright  © 2012 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

 

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