Rodgers Luhwago reports from Tanzania on the story that broke there recently. Apparently donations from the flocks aren’t the only reason why those religious men are rolling in dough. He states that his source for this is the Guardian on Sunday but he didn’t include a link and I can’t find one. Search engine fail.
Anyway, how they do this, according to police: the bishop/evangelist sends a letter to a foreign country’s denomination asking for permission to organize a seminar or such thing. If the request’s granted (and who’d say no to that?) the letter is used for the visa application. The seminar would take place in that foreign country (funded by the host’s money, not the visitors) and while over there, the drug sale would happen. The booty would be packed in diplomatic bags, which I gather tend to get a pass at customs. In some cases the courier would claim he had to ship several religious donations and would thus pack a container to ferry millions of shillings worth of hidden cocaine and heroin back to Tanzania.
It’s understood that religious items are not taxable.
For instance one of those arrested is allegedly to have used the statues of the Virgin Mary to smuggle cocaine into the country early this year.
Wasn’t that trick used on Lost? Life imitating art?
The source who spoke under conditions of strict anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter added, “Some of them have wealth which they can’t justify but if you look at the conditions of their churches, they are still using discotheques or hired halls to preach while they have billions.”
Taking the advantage of the respect they command within the circle of society as well as government, previously nobody could suspect some ‘men of God’ to be involved in drug trafficking.
Puts me in mind of Mother Teresa and the Mission of Charity group that was taking in all the donations. All money was received legally (I presume) but how much of that largesse was allocated for buying medicine and helping the poor of Calcutta and the rest? May as well say none. According to Susan Shields, who used to write up receipts for all those generous donations:
We begged for food and supplies from local merchants as though we had no resources. On one of the rare occasions when we ran out of donated bread, we went begging at the local store. When our request was turned down, our superior decreed that the soup kitchen could do without bread for the day.
It was not only merchants who were offered a chance to be generous. Airlines were requested to fly sisters and air cargo free of charge. Hospitals and doctors were expected to absorb the costs of medical treatment for the sisters or to draw on funds designated for the religious. Workmen were encouraged to labor without payment or at reduced rates. We relied heavily on volunteers who worked long hours in our soup kitchens, shelters, and day camps.
There’s a word I’m looking for.. tip of my tongue.. “Despicable” isn’t it, but it’ll do. “Shameful” maybe? “Inhumane” might be another. So many words.
If love of money is supposedly the root of all evil, why do religious folks want so damn much of it? “If we have it all, then it’ll be impossible for regular folks to be evil,” is probably not they way they rationalize it.
Back to Tanzania:
So far none of those arrested have been charged before the court of law. Police say they are still investigating more suspects believed to be using similar methods to traffic into the country.
The arrest comes just a few days after top Christian religious leaders gave a 48-hour ultimatum to President Kikwete to name those he accused of drug trafficking or else they would name all corrupt leaders within his government.
Kind of a pickle there, but one problem at a time, I suppose.
Which reminds me, I see some states are looking to reduce drug penalties. Many prisons have a surplus of one-time stupid users that are taking up space repeat offenders and hard core dealers could be sitting in. Canada, on the other hand, is taking the opposite approach.