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RZIM Complicity in Abuse: Ye shall know them by their fruit

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Credible evidence has been provided by multiple women who were sexually abused and molested by the well-known Christian apologist and minister, Ravi Zacharias. I have no interest in re-hashing the details, but rather want to focus on the response by Ravi’s family and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), which is now comprised of 17 separate legal entities and over 250 employees worldwide.

RZIM denies the claims, saying in a statement to CT that the charges of sexual misconduct “do not in any way comport with the man we knew for decades.” The organization has hired a law firm “with experience investigating such matters” to look into the allegations, which date back at least 10 years. RZIM declined to answer any further questions about the inquiry. ~ Christianity Today

Denial, targeting the credibility of victims, and conducting “investigations” are typical responses by Christian ministries finding themselves amidst moral scandal. What these organizations, their board of directors, and management fail to realize and acknowledge is that by covering up and minimizing abuse, THEY ARE COMPLICIT IN THE ABUSE.

In the case of RZIM, the board has known of accusations dating back at least a decade. Who knew what and when? What did they do about it? More importantly, what will they do now?

1) Ravi’s eldest daughter Sarah Davis Zacharias is the Executive Director of RZIM so is well positioned to guide the organization to a moral and just response.

2) Ravi’s other daughter, Naomi Zacharias, authored The Scent of Water, Grace for Every Kind of Broken while directing Well Spring International, the humanitarian arm of RZIM. The book describes Naomi’s travels and shares stories including those of women impacted by sexual violence and trafficking.

The hypocrisy between the claims of these ministries and the leadership roles carried by Zacharias family members versus the denial and efforts to obscure Ravi’s abuse and ignore those female victims creates significant cognitive dissonance. For example, the Well Spring International website states: Women and children are often more vulnerable to particular forms of abuse, and our efforts focus on empowering individual donors to be informed about their giving and its impact for change. So, RZIM will help women in other countries and simultaneously deny the same compassion and assistance to those harmed by their founder??

3) It has been reported that Ravi’s wife Margie and his daughter are both board members of RZIM; I can’t find a published list of board members which is highly suspicious. Not only is the problem of nepotism apparent in RZIM with management and multiple family members receiving salaries from the ministry (according to the most recent financial documents I could access), but there is a lack of transparency.

4) Lori Anne Thompson and her husband, Brad, signed an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Ravi under what they described as great duress, after she came forward regarding his grooming and abuse. Ravi also threatened to commit suicide (confirmed by text messages) if Lori Anne made their relationship public. Ravi later sued her and her husband, despite the NDA. According to a statement from the RZIM board last week, the Zacharias family “does not feel it proper” to release Thompson from the confidentiality agreement.

Frankly, what the Zacharias family “feels is proper” is irrelevant. They are actively preventing a victim from testifying and from gaining the much-needed justice and healing to which they could contribute. True, they must be experiencing great humiliation, feelings of sadness and betrayal, and fear for their reputational and financial futures. Yet, it would seem that the path forward should be crystal clear. The focus should be on those Ravi abused, not on themselves. If you think this sounds harsh, consider the response of Amanda Householder to reports that her parents were frequently abusing female students at their boarding school, Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch, in Missouri. Amanda led the efforts to assist victims and it resulted in the shuttering of the boarding school. Her only regret is that she did not act sooner.

5) In my experience with investigations into ministry abuse with New Tribes Mission/Ethnos 360, a truly independent investigation is rarely employed. Ministries prefer to conduct internal investigations in which they control access to employees, information, and to what is publicized of the investigative results. This issue is expertly explained by Boz Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, former Liberty University law professor, and founder of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment).

All too often, the overriding institutional concern has very little to do with caring for the victims and the wounded and everything to do with protecting its reputation by doing everything it can to shut off the spotlight and ‘move on.’… An internal investigation disguised as an independent investigation ultimately deceives and exploits the very people the process is supposed to empower and serve. In these circumstances, the testimonies of unsuspecting victims and witnesses often end up being used to protect the institution, not to find the truth. ~ Boz Tchividjian

Ultimately, the Zacharias family, RZIM, and its affiliates have a choice to make. They can remain complicit in Ravi’s abuse, further victimize those targeted by Ravi, and undermine their Christian witness and ministry. Or, they can act in humility, seek truth by encouraging victims to come forward, launching a truly independent investigation, and wholeheartedly striving to make amends to Ravi’s victims and to reform the ministry that enabled and hid his abuse.

If these simple steps are not taken, I recommend:

1) Donors to RZIM, Well Spring International, and any other ministry affiliated with Ravi stop donating immediately. By continuing to support RZIM, donors enable the ministry leaders and Zacharias family to sidestep their responsibility and bury abuse.

2) Disinvite RZIM speakers you have booked, and do not attend any of their events. Again, financial pressure is the key to achieving accountability with non-profit organizations. According to Christianity today, The organization has 100 events planned for the month of October, from online Zoom conferences to speeches at Asian universities to seminars in Midwest Baptist churches.

3) Demand transparency from the RZIM board. A full list of board members should be publicized. Any Zacharias family members in leadership and/or receiving a salary from the ministry should be made public including their role and amount earned.

The entire situation of Ravi’s abuse being exposed and the highly inadequate response by his family and RZIM remind of this passage from Matthew: 7: 15 – 20 KJV

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Thanks to the bravery of Lori Anne Thompson, @LoriAnneThomps2 for publicizing the abuse she experienced. More women have come forward because of her courage. Steve of @RaviScam and Julie Roys of @reachjulieroys have done a phenomenal job of documenting Ravi’s sexual deviance and ensuring the public knows of his long-term sexual abuse and harassment of women. Learn more on their Twitter accounts and websites.

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