If there is a God, when Pat Robertson dies surely he will be standing at St. Peter’s pearly gates waiting to ask the televangelist about his life. From Robertson’s disgusting, offensive, sexist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic comments and advice, to his false claims about gays, lesbians, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, atheists, Christianity, the Bible, the “end times,” and about God himself, there will be a discussion of epic proportions.
But all that may pale in comparison to the picture being painted in a documentary film that opens today at the Toronto film festival.
In Mission Congo, directors Lara Zizic and David Turner portray Pat Robertson as a greedy businessman who diverted funds and assets, like airplanes and workers, from his 1990′s Rwandan refugee crisis operation, to his diamond mine operation.
“During an escalating refugee crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Robertson took to the airwaves of the Christian Broadcasting Network to raise money for his charity Operation Blessing International,” Thom Powers writes:
He attracted millions of dollars in donations for relief projects in the Congo. Later, he deemed the mission a success, broadcasting footage of himself being warmly embraced by children in refugee camps.
The filmmakers draw strongly upon the reporting of Bill Sizemore, a journalist for The Virginian-Pilot.
The directors “interview aid workers, eyewitnesses and even the pilots of Robertson’s airplanes who describe a different mission: diamonds. With the help of a brutal dictator and ex- Navy SEALS, Robertson was diverting his planes away from refugee camps to a different part of the Congo to extract precious gems.”
The Guardian adds that the film claims that Robertson “raised millions of dollars from loyal followers by claiming Operation Blessing was at the forefront of the international response to the biggest refugee crisis of the decade. It’s a claim he continues to make, even though an official investigation into Robertson’s operation in Virginia accused him of ‘fraudulent and deceptive’ claims when he was running an almost non-existent aid operation.”
“We brought the largest contingent of medicine into Goma in Zaire, at least the first and the largest,” Robertson said as recently as last year on his TV station.
The documentary describes how dredges, used to suck up diamonds from river beds, were delivered hundreds of miles from the crisis in Goma to a private commercial firm, African Development Company, registered in Bermuda and wholly owned by Robertson. ADC held a mining concession near the town of Kamonia on the far side of the country.
“Mission after mission was always just getting eight-inch dredgers, six-inch dredgers … and food supplies, quads, jeeps, out to the diamond dredging operation outside of Kamonia,” Hinkle told the film-makers.
The pilot said he joined Operation Blessing to help people. Of the 40 flights he flew into Congo, just two delivered aid. The others were associated with the diamond mining. “We’re not doing anything for those people,” he said. “After several months I was embarrassed to have Operation Blessing on the airplane’s tail.” He had the lettering removed.
Robertson ordered an airstrip carved out of the bush next to the town of Kamonia, 800 miles from Goma. On his television show he left the impression this was part of his aid operation.
The televangelist was also raising donations for Operation Blessing’s other activities in Congo. These included a 100,000-acre farm near the town of Dumi, which Robertson claimed had produced a large harvest of corn and was a “tremendous feeding station”.
“The soil is unbelievable. You stick anything in the ground and it grows. You put a shovel in and it starts sprouting,” he said in appealing for donations.
In fact, the farm at Dumi had already failed. The soil was of poor quality and Operation Blessing brought seeds from the US unsuited to the region.
To this day, Robertson continues to solicit donations on the back of the project, on the grounds that although the farm failed, it left a legacy with a school that established a “foundation of education” in the town. 2011 posting on the Operation Blessing website described the school as “thriving”.
The Huffington Post notes that in a “2008 article for the Virginia Quarterly Review, Sizemore recalled that one of the pilots had kept notes on some of his trips. During a flight where Robertson was a passenger, one of those notes read, ‘Prayed for diamonds.’”
Right Wing Watch notes that Robertson is threatening a lawsuit.
Perhaps God will decide if that falls under “bearing false witness.”
Image by Daniel Oines via Flickr
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