Nadine Dorries Posts Report on Equatorial Guinea Trip

Amid media reports of “three Conservative MPs enjoy[ing] a £25,000 junket to Equatorial Guinea”, Nadine Dorries has finally managed to post on-line her critical account of her visit to the country in August. As was noted last week, the trip had been organised by an obscure outfit called the Triarius Foundation, which went on to produce a laughably clumsy report that praised EG’s human rights record and described free speech concerns as “trivial” complaints by “self-interested, unrepresentative, and unaccountable pressure groups”. However, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Dorries, who headed the delegation that visited the country in August 2011, was furious that the trip had been used to promote the regime. She said the report was ‘completely contrary’ to her own findings and that of the MPs who accompanied her including Steve Baker MP for Wycombe and Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

Unfortunately, Dorries then had technical trouble uploading a pdf of her own report, with the result that media reports of a “junket” gathered momentum; she now complains of “disappointing, inaccurate and ill informed media coverage”.

Dorries has explained her reasons for going to EG in a post at Conservative Home:

I took over leading the trip from Michael Ancram. Who for personal reasons had to stand down.  It was impossible to get even one Labour MP to agree to come, despite many being asked. A Labour Peer was due to accompany the delegation but dropped out at the last moment.

…All three of us undertook the trip with one objective in mind, to bring back an accurate impression and to do whatever we could to make any suggestion towards improving the daily lives of the small population.

To prepare for the tip, I held a meeting with the R.C.O.G  (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist) as a result of various discussions, my objective on the trip to EG was to attempt to persuade the EG Health Minister, to meet with representatives from the R.C.O. G and discuss the details of a staff training programme the R.C.O.G. deploy in developing countries…

She also gives an account of the delegation:

The MPs were joined by Iain Birrell a freelance journalist who acted ‘undercover’.  Greg Wales, who owns Triarus, the organisation acting on behalf of the EG government, Adrian Yelland [sic – actually “Adrian Yalland”] a lobbyist who co-ordinated the logistics and a theatre impresario, Giles [Ramsey] who was there to appraise the cultural aspects of EG…

Steve Baker prepared a paper to discuss with any interested Ministers the benefits of democracy and free markets.

Caroline Noakes researched Education across Africa and undertook to appraise EG Education and led the questioning of the Education Minister.

Wales’ relationship with the EG government is curious: he is a former business partner of Simon Mann, and was connected with Mann’s disastrous 2004 coup attempt.

Birrell, writing in last week’s Observer, reports that Yalland was ebullient about EG, gushing over the “fantastic infrastructure” and dismissive of “major misconceptions… over civil liberties and human rights”. This appears to be Yalland’s personal view: although he works in PR, he told the Bureau that the company he works for (Chelgate Ltd) “was not carrying out public relations work for the government of Equatorial Guinea”. It is interesting to note that Yalland is also the director of the “Right to Life” campaign, which works with Dorries to promote abortion law reform; perhaps he expected Dorries to share his perspective on other matters as well.

Dorries’ report runs to 10 pages, and consists of a mix of personal observations and general information about the country culled from other sources. The overall impression is of a corrupt dictatorship in which the majority of the population live in poverty, and suffer and die needlessly due to inadequate healthcare – there’s a particularly grim account of a visit to a hospital, “full of empty rooms with outdated, unusable equipment”, and where “the man with the key” to unlock the resuscitation rooms “could not be found”. It’s a reasonable enough account, although it doesn’t tell us anything new about the country.

The first page of Dorries’ report lists the delegation’s members and itinerary, and appears to have been based on a document provided by Triarius – the Triarius Report begins in the same way, and follows the same layout and wording. One interesting difference, though, is that the Triarius report lists former MP Rupert Allason as a member of the delegation – Allason was involved in the 2009 negotiations to free Simon Mann. Presumably he must have dropped out at some point, since Birrell doesn’t mention him either.

Dorries’ trip has been criticised by Paul Flynn MP, in a comment reported by the Telegraph:

The Labour MP Paul Flynn said the trip was “unbelievable” and that the MPs should have informed themselves about the regime of President Teodoro Obiang.

“It is monstrous naivety not to make a few basic enquiries about a regime run by someone who appears to be half way between Adolf Hitler and Attila the Hun,” said Mr Flynn.

“Five minutes of research should have informed these MPs that this was not a regime with which our parliamentarians should be associating. One would have thought that recent events in Libya would remind MPs that cosying up to corrupt dictators is unwise.”

Of course, Dorries’ stated aim was to improve medical services, which in itself would be a legitimate reason for going no matter who is in charge of the country. However, one would have thought the way the visit was organised would have set off alarm bells: the trip was funded by EG via a newly-created and mostly anonymous foundation based in Malta (the Triarius website  mentions “individuals with long experience of African and Islamic States”, but only Wales is named), while logistics were coordinated by a man – personally known to Dorries from other contexts – who from Birrell’s account was bubbling over with enthusiasm for how the country is run.

Steve Baker MP, meanwhile, told the paper that

 “I received a call from Nadine Dorries asking me if I wanted to join the delegation and I thought it would be useful to get an idea of how Equatorial Guinea worked and see if I could do some good. Quite honestly, I wish I hadn’t gone. The country is governed extremely badly.”

UPDATE (7 December): Dorries’ account also makes the point that:

The trip was undertaken with the knowledge and encouragement of the foreign office and since our return we have debriefed the Minister.

The latest Private Eye (1303, p. 9) has a bit more background on that:

When the unsavoury regime of Equatorial Guinea offered to receive a delegation of Tory MPs last summer, Henry Bellingham, Foreign Office (FCO) minister with responsibility for Africa , was curiously keen for the visit to go ahead and tried to get his department to support it.

According to emails released to Private Eye under the freedom of information act, however, FCO officials were reluctant to offer any diplomatic backing…. But why, as the emails show, was Bellingham so keen to encourage his fellow Tory MPs to go there in the first place?

…Bellingham knows Allason and, with Wales, has a mutual friend in… coup leader Simon Mann, another new-found friend of Obiang’s. Surely the ties of friendship cannot have coloured the judgement of a minister of the crown?

UPDATE 2 (27 December): In the Independent, Whitehall editor Oliver Wright reports that public acrimony has now broken out between Wales and the MPs:

Mr Wales added that there had been one successful element to this trip. “The most useful thing was to prove that you can take a bunch of British MPs to Equatorial Guinea and come back with the same number of body parts which you left with.” He added: “They were rather rude about their hosts when they got back – that was just bad manners.

The most irritating aspect is the things they could have done – actually give the Foreign Office some useful information and insights; assist UK businesses and individuals who work there or plan to; impress a government that has surprising clout and is very close to other places that matter a lot to the UK – for example Nigeria – with their gravitas.

“Once back they opted for playground name-calling. They come across as a bunch of vacuous, ignorant, ill-bred oiks. The Equatorial Guinea government was deeply unimpressed with the quality of our parliamentarians.”

Wales was expecting gravitas from Dorries? Seriously?

Meanwhile:

Ms Dorries said: “Mr Wales was pushing a sugary, sickly-sweet view about how wonderful everything was in Equatorial Guinea. At even the slightest criticism he became bad-tempered. We decided to be polite, diplomatic and keep our powder dry. We wrote what we found in our report and have now raised our concerns about Equatorial Guinea. We believe we were right to go to see for ourselves what life is like in the country and report back in a fair and balanced way and that is what we have done.”

The report makes no reference to Chelgate or to Adrian Yalland.

Channel 4 Looks At Prosperity Gospel in Nigeria

“God is a game. And do you know the funny part of it? The game is very easy.”

Channel 4 yesterday broadcast Nigeria’s Millionaire Preachers, a short documentary in the Unreported World strand. The programme focused mainly on an up-and-coming evangelist named Sign Fireman; Fireman runs the Perfect Christianity Ministry, which has a number of branches and which is typical of hundreds of ministries in Lagos alone. Inevitably, the picture was unattractive: one service featured hobbling congregants who supposedly had been cured of illnesses, while at another service one of Fireman’s branch pastors held out promises of material prosperity that went beyond any kind of realistic expectation:

I was very poor and wretched. I wasn’t even a pastor. And he [Fireman] saw me in the gutter and picked me up. I five months I got three cars. It happened like magic. I started getting money. I wasn’t dressed like this before.

Addressing his branch pastors in a private strategy meeting, Fireman explained that:

God is a game. And do you know the funny part of it? The game is very easy… If you cannot make what you have to offer clear enough, people are not going to be enticed.

The programme also featured segments about pastors with bigger reputations than Fireman. One was Pastor Chris Okotie of  Household of God Church International Ministries, whose congregants come mainly from Nigeria’s wealthy elite; before his conversion in 1984, Okotie “had hits with records such as Secret Love and Show Me Your Backside”, and much of the service filmed by the programme consisted of Okotie singing religious songs. The other pastor discussed was Chris Oyakhilome, who has an international Christ Embassy ministry; the programme’s presenter, Seyi Rhodes, interviewed Simon Ateba, a journalist who claims to have been beaten up by Oyakhilome’s security guards in 2009.

Of course, this is far from the being the whole story of this strand of independent evangelicalism in Nigeria: while Prosperity Gospel rhetoric can be crass and reminiscent of the worst excesses of US televangelism, many pastors are much more like motivational speakers who give advice on financial and business management. That may seem excessively “this-worldly” when compared with some other forms of Christianity, but it meets a basic need in a country where many people have an understandable aspiration to escape poverty.

The programme’s website includes an article on “a sequence that didn’t make it in to our film”, concerning Reverend Mrs. Chika Oluchi:

A remarkable woman, she is in charge of The Mountain of the Lord Ministries International: Centre for Liberation. Her church is based in Ejigbo, a suburb of Lagos that is famous for having a very high concentration of churches.

She runs a widows fellowship every Thursday night… The Widows Fellowship is a chance for widows who are struggling to make ends meet to pray together and look for help.

The article tells the story of Therese, of one of the women helped by Oluchi. Therese had lost everything after becoming involved with predatory pastors at another church:

At the end of her first visit to the church the pastors told Therese that her late husband had been a member of a devil worshipping cult and persuaded Therese that God wanted her to sell everything her husband owned. The car (a Mercedes), carpets, a gas cooker, dining table and chairs, clothes, cutlery, crockery and even the curtains were all taken to the church. Therese was told that if anyone found out what had happened God would kill her and her children….

Luckily Therese met Reverend Oluchi. For over a month she slept on the floor of the church without telling anyone what had happened to her before the reverend managed to get the story out of her.

When we followed up this story during our filming we found the police just about to arrest the couple Therese accused. The police took us to the church in question. We watched as they stormed into the middle of Sunday service and arrested the couple…

World Congress of Families & Mother of God’s Belt to Persuade Russian Women to Have More Babies

A press release from Don Feder and the World Congress of Families:

World Congress of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs called Russia’s new abortion restrictions “a modest step in the right direction — but a positive development nonetheless.”

…The World Congress of Families sponsored the first international conference dealing with the worldwide decline of birthrates — “The Moscow Demographic Summit: Family and the Future of Humankind” — at the Russian State Social University, June 29-30.

More than 500 participated, including demographers, economists, ethicists, researchers, scholars, leaders and activists from every corner of the world.  It was blessed by Patriarch Kirill and welcomed by the Russian Duma.

I previously blogged on the WCF back in 2008, after an article on the subject by Kathryn Joyce brought a wrathful rebuke from Feder; before that, I noted a WCF conference in Poland in 2007.

The WCF website gives further background to the Russian connection:

It is very symbolic that the original idea to hold periodic meetings of people sincerely concerned about the deep crisis of the Family and search for its rebirth as the fundamental unit of society, was born in Moscow in 1995, during the conversation of Dr. Allan Carlson (author of the well-known Manifesto of the Natural Family) with Professor Antonov A.I. of the Moscow State Lomonosov University. Thanks to the enthusiasm it has created, the idea was quickly put into practice. A year later, in 1997, the first World Congress of Families was held in Prague. So far five World Congress of Families have been held in various parts of the world, attracting thousands of defenders of Life and Family from all over the world. More than 3,800 people representing 60 countries took part in the last Congress in Amsterdam.

Returning to Feder’s press release, speakers included “Natalya Yakunina (President of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program)”, and he adds that:

Abortions in Russia, Demographic Winter and the natural family were also recent topics at the Rhodes Forum.  Along with Mrs. Yakunina (Vladimir Yakunin’s wife), Jacobs was co-moderator of a roundtable discussion on “Maintaining Family Values in the 21st Century,” as part of the 9th Annual Session of the Rhodes Forum of the World Public Forum’s Dialogue of Civilizations held on the Isle of Rhodes, Greece, October 7-10.  Participants overwhelmingly affirmed the right to life as a basic human right and highlighted the demographic crisis facing Russia and Europe.

Vladimir Yakunin runs Russia’s railways, and he has been described by the Moscow Times as “the Kremlin’s model ‘Orthodox businessman'”. Yakunin is a co-founder of the World Public Forum, and his opening speech noted “incompatibility between the neo-liberal interpretation of the system of human rights and the system of human values”, and that “the universal urge to have the ‘freedom’ to say ‘anything and in any form’ has a temporary character and is beginning to fade away”.

Yakunin also heads the St. Andrew’s Foundation, of which the WPF is an initative, and his family-values efforts are not just confined to conferences; Interfax reports that he has arranged for a relic to brought to Russia from Mount Athos:

…”One of the reasons why we asked the Vatopedi Monastery to bring the belt of the Mother of God to Russia is demographic situation in our country. We think this shrine will arouse interest to spiritual revival of our society, to family values,” head of St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation and head of Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin told journalists on Athos.

…Vatopedi Father Superior Archimandrite Yefrem said the monastery had earlier refused the request to bring the reliquary to other countries, for example to the USA, Romania. The exception was made for Russia.

I previously wrote about Vatopedi and Ephraim here. Ephraim was also at a WPF conference on the subject of Mount Athos which took place in July.

Footnote

The World Public Forum brings together international academics, religious figures, and politicians. One of the co-chairmen is former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer; Gusenbauer is also a “consultant” to Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Tony Blair is another), and Yakunin recently presented Nazarbayev with a World Public Forum prize a few days before elections in Kazakhstan (Nazarbayev, who had reluctantly agreed to disregard term limits and stay on for a third decade in power, won 95.5 per cent of the vote).

There is something odd about the WPF, though: as I’ve noted previously, while the WPF supports inter-faith dialogue and has Muslim participants, one of its three co-founders is a US-based businessman named Nicholas Papanicolaou, who identifies with the neo-Pentecostal end of the Christian Right: he is a board member of Rick Joyner’s Oak Initiative, alongside Gen William “Jerry” Boykin. In turn, Joyner and Boykin are members of a “chivarlic order” called the “Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (The Ecumenical Order)“, of which Papanicolaou is Grand Master, and some of the Order’s events have been held on property controlled by Joyner’s Morning Star Ministries (this “Ecumenical Order” should not be confused with the better-known Roman Catholic Knights of Malta). Joyner, Boykin, and the Oak Initiative are hostile to Islam, and Papanicolaou has himself written a book entitled Islam vs the United States. The Order, by contrast, is supposed to support inter-religious understanding, but that did not prevent Boykin and Papanicolaou from sending out a public letter in the Order’s name which equated “devout Muslims” with terrorism.

Papanicolaou was not listed as being involved with the latest WPF event – but he happened to be on Rhodes at around the same time, inducting new members into his Order. Among them was Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who had addressed an English Defence League rally in February.

Nadine Dorries MP vs Humanism

Nadine Dorries MP complains:

The Humanist magazine are running an online ‘bad faith’ poll and I am apparently in the lead.

I am not sure why anyone would admit to being a humanist and part of an organisation which has such extreme views. A humanist recently commented that, not only did he believe that abortion was acceptable right up to the moment of birth, but that termination of a child’s life was acceptable up until the point where the child had the ability to reason, understand and justify life.

Dorries has been nominated due to her attempts (blogged by me here) to change laws around sex education and abortion counselling:

Where to begin? Conservative MP Dorries has been fighting a war on two fronts this year against the twin evils of abortion provision and comprehensive sex education. In May she proposed legislation which, in the unlikely event of it becoming law, would introduce abstinence-based sex education for girls, while in September she suffered a heavy defeat over her proposals to prevent abortion providers offering counselling services, which many believed would force vulnerable women into the hands of faith groups.

The quote: Asked by humanist Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert to respond to evidence suggesting the abortion counselling system works just fine, she responded: “That is probably the most fatuous comment that we will hear in this House”.

A number of Humanists who do not hold pro-infanticide views have asked Dorries to elaborate on her accusation, prompting a second post on the subject:

Here is the proof in the words of the Australian humanist Peter Singer who was awarded ‘humanist of the year’ by the Australian humanist society in 2004.

This, in my opinion, evil humanist states that infanticide is ok and that the life of a baby is of less value than a pig.

In 1979 he wrote, “Human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons”; therefore, “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog, or a chimpanzee.”

In 1993 he stated that no newborn should be considered a person until 30 days after birth and that the attending physician should kill some disabled babies on the spot.

….There is a lot more about him on this blog

So, the Australian humanist society makes their man of the year one who advocates infanticide. Nice. 

I feel slightly disgusted that such an extreme group of people even print my name in their glossy (we are ever so innocent really) magazine. Oh yes, and that reminds me, which former LibDem MP has a role to play in the British Humanist Society? Maybe that’s why Evan Harris’ nickname in Parliament is Dr Death…

Unity at Ministry of Truth has scrutinized Dorries’ characterization of Singer here and here. While Singer’s philosophical musings on the subject are certainly controversial and arguable (and, to some, distasteful), Dorries’ account is crude: it should be noted that the “blog” she cites is actually an article posted on the website of Hank Hanegraaff’s Christian Research Institute and that the same piece attacks the theory of evolution, denouncing Singer’s “Darwinian worldview”. And while Humanists in general tend to support euthanasia and abortion rights, the idea that Singer’s arguments on these or on other matters (animal rights, left-wing politics) define Humanism is too much of a stretch. But Humanists have attacked certain things Dorries has said and done, and, as ever, her response has to be viciously personalized vilification.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen again and again: a blogger who has investigated her expenses and challenged some of her assertions is a “stalker” whose “special hatred is reserved for women”; a constituent who was off work waiting for operations on her feet and who criticised Dorries on Twitter “is giving housebound disabled people a bad name” and ought to be put to work; her (now ex-) boyfriend’s estranged wife is “violent” and has been repudiated by her own children; Tim Farron MP, while purporting to be a Christian, has been “outed” as someone  who has been “blinded by ambition and sold his soul to the devil” (“outed” was also a mocking jibe about rumours concerning Farron’s sexuality); Chancellor the Exchequer George Osborne is a “traitor” and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is “mad”; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has “offended every practicing Christian in the UK”.

And so on. Not even the Prime Minister completely escapes Dorries’ censure, starting with a question raised in Parliament in September:

The Liberal Democrats make up 8.7% of this Parliament and yet they seem to be influencing our free school policy, health and many issues including immigration and abortion. Does the Prime Minister… think it is about time he told the Deputy Prime Minister who is the boss?

Cameron’s reply was off-the-cuff and dismissive:

I know that the hon. Lady is extremely frustrated about the—[ Interruption . ] Perhaps I should start all over again—[ Interruption. ] I am going to give up on this one.

The two “interruptions” noted by Hansard were guffaws of laughter at the unintended double entendre in “frustrated” – the word was perhaps misjudged and Cameron subsequently sent Dorries an apology. However, that served only to spur her on to milk the incident even more aggressively, with a Daily Mail op-ed entitled “The PM Publicly Humiliated Me in Front of the Entire Nation, What Did I Do to Deserve That?”

(Incidentally, while Dorries has found the time to research Peter Singer and the evils of humanism, she’s still struggling to work out how to upload a pdf of a report on Equatorial Guinea she promised to put on-line last week)

Attempt to Use MPs to Puff Equatorial Guinea Backfires

November 2010: Chelgate Ltd’s Executive Vice-President, Adrian Yalland, enthuses on the BBC about “the importance of the Magna Carta”, noting the document’s enshrining of “basic human liberties” . Chelgate handles communications for the Magna Carta Trust.

July 2011: Chelgate Ltd attends the unveiling of “Grosvenor Square’s new statue of President Reagan”; the company’s website notes “Ronald Reagan’s legacy of human freedom”.

August 2011: Yalland praises Equatorial Guinea; the Observer‘s Ian Birrell reports from a visit to the country:

…”Fantastic infrastructure here, isn’t it, compared with the rest of Africa” enthuses one of my companions… This is Adrian Yalland, an ebullient former spokesman for the Countryside Alliance who now speaks up for this West African dictatorship. He has not visited the country before.

…The cream-suited Yalland chipped in: “One of the misconceptions of Equatorial Guinea is that you don’t have a functioning democracy, but you obviously do with state funding and functioning political parties. One of the other major misconceptions is over civil liberties and human rights.”

However, despite such a glowing account of one of the most corrupt and vicious dictatorships in Africa, Yalland has assured the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (“a not for profit organisation based at City University in London”) that “Chelgate was not carrying out public relations work for the government of Equatorial Guinea”. Instead, he was there merely to provide “short-term logistical support and liaison” for a delegation of MPs to the country.

That delegation included none other than Nadine Dorries MP, who has previously worked with Yalland on abortion-law reform activism (he’s a director of the “Right to Know” campaign, which I blogged here). However, Dorries is not happy with the way things subsequently turned out:

The five-day trip, which cost more than £7,000, was paid for by the government of Equatorial Guinea via a Malta-based organisation, the Triarius Foundation.

The think-tank subsequently used the trip and the MPs’ attendance to promote the government of Equatorial Guinea in a report suggesting criticism of the regime is uninformed, trivial and self-interested. Leading human rights activitists including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch frequently attack the government for its human rights abuses and use of torture.

Dorries, who headed the delegation that visited the country in August 2011, was furious that the trip had been used to promote the regime. She said the report was ‘completely contrary’ to her own findings and that of the MPs who accompanied her including Steve Baker MP for Wycombe and Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

Dorries also said she had not known about the report before being contacted by the Bureau.

Imagine that – a country paying for British MPs to visit turns out to have a self-interested motive for doing so! The Bureau adds:

In another twist the Triarius Foundation is run by Greg Wales, who was named in connection with an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea in 2004.

Also listed by the Triarius Foundation as part of the delegation is “Rupert Allason (former MP)” – Allason was involved in the 2009 negotiations to free Simon Mann, who was Wales’ former business partner and the organizer of the plot.

The report is laughably bombastic and self-serving – here’s a taste:

EG is a more cohesive society than the UK or the USA, which observers from those states, used to a dysfunctional society  lacking common values and objectives, can find difficult to grasp. The population of EG shares common attitudes and norms – derived from African traditions and their shared Roman Catholicism – to a considerable extent, which gives considerable commonality of views. Their attitude to human rights as they are understood in the UK and USA therefore differs. They place a higher priority on families; family life; the duties and obligations of family members to each other; and the preservation of families as viable social units, than is now fashionable in the West. They also share strong value-systems – they have a stronger sense of “right and wrong” than is now allowable in Western liberal ideology.

…EG has been criticised on [freedom of speech grounds], although most widely at the trivial level of the self-interested, unrepresentative, and unaccountable pressure groups whose business models require them to generate  indignation and concern among those from whom they rely for funding. Their analyses normally lack  rigour, objectivity, and  solid grounding in fact…

It seems that this report was cobbled together when it was realised that the MPs would not be playing ball. Birrell notes:

By the time I returned to the hotel after another meeting, the party was polishing off pizzas and wine. Dorries ended the meal by telling Wales they were not being shown a proper picture of the country and would not write a “whitewash” report; he replied that they had been rude to their hosts and did not understand Africa. A furious row broke out.

On her blog, Dorries has refrained from mentioning Yalland or explaining how she came to be part of the delegation, but she assures her readers that her own report will be available imminently:

I  hope to have the report submitted to the House of Commons library by the close of play today. A copy will also be submitted to Amnesty International and a link placed on my blog when available.

This is doubtless a very annoying outcome for Wales – his own report repudiated, and MPs and journalists subjecting the country to further highly-critical scrutiny. Still, given that we’ve been assured that concerns about human rights in EG are “trivial”, there’s no need to worry too much about how President Obiang will respond to news of the fiasco.

Unfortunately, however, the public release of the MPs’ report has been delayed due to Dorries’ inability to upload a pdf to her website (“We are scratching our heads over this one”). She has also submitted a press release to the PA, although no sign of it has so far emerged.

The Triarius Foundation describes itself thus:

The Foundation’s mission is to encourage a wider and deeper understanding in the West of African and Islamic States. It aims to increase awareness of societal, cultural and political norms and practices, and an understanding of their origins, strengths and value to Western countries.

A core belief is that Western norms and practices are not invariably superior, nor universally applicable to other societies; and that the West has much to gain from an understanding of the values, strengths and competence of other social and political models.

The Foundation, as its name implies, was set up by a group of individuals with long experience of African and Islamic States, and a respect for their peoples, cultures, history and and political institutions.

The Foundation is headquartered in Malta – symbolically where Europe and Africa meet and co-exist – and is non-profit-making. It works with Governments, elements of civil society, and cultural and ethnic groups. It does not solicit, nor will it accept, donations or grants from Western individuals or corporations.

Curiously, none of these “individuals with long experience of African and Islamic States” are named, although there is a “registered office”: “Stonecroft”, Dr Gruze Micelli Street, Gzira GZR1723, Malta. The street has variable spellings: other sources call it “Guze Miceli Street” or “G. Miceli Street”.

So far, the foundation appears to be little more than a vehicle for the pro-EG report: the foundation’s website was created on 31 May, and the report is the only item listed on the Foundation’s “projects” page.

BBC Report on Human Sacrifice in Uganda Claims UK Link

A few days ago the BBC broadcast “The Witch Doctors’ Children” as part of its Our World strand; parts of the programme, which was presented by Chris Rogers, previously went out last week as segments on Newsnight. The documentary focused on Uganda, and covered child human sacrifice, the use of human body parts in juju rituals, and child trafficking to the UK.

The programme made more of a case than Newsnight’s 2010 report on the subject, which relied on the dubious confession of an ex-witch doctor turned Christian and which left a number of questions hanging. This time, there was some hard evidence: this included an account of Allan, a boy who had narrowly survived a sacrifice attempt with serious injuries; interviews with bereaved relatives in Mukono District, where the problem is most severe; and  – most crucially – secret filming in which a village witch doctor offered to acquire a child and perform a sacrifice.

A tie-in BBC report here describes what happened:

…Awali invited us into his shrine, which is traditionally built from mud bricks with a straw roof. Inside, the floor is littered with herbs, face masks, rattles and a machete.

The witch doctor explained that this meeting was to discuss the most powerful spell – the sacrifice of a child.

“There are two ways of doing this,” he said. “We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine.”

Awali grabbed his throat. “If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off and his genitals. We will dig a hole at your construction site, and also bury the feet and the hands and put them all together in the hole.”

…Awali boasted he had sacrificed children many times before and knew what he was doing. After this meeting, we withdrew from the negotiations.

We handed our notes to the police. Awali is still a free man.

Allan had previously identified Awali as the man who had tried to kill him; Awali had been arrested but released without charge. I hope there’s some follow-up to this.

The programme also featured testimonies from children who have been trafficked to the UK and whose blood and hair have been forcibly extracted  for ritual use; it seems that these materials may have reached some the African spiritual healers who advertise in London newspapers:

Witch-doctors, or traditional spiritual healers as they prefer to be known, are becoming more prominent in Britain.

Many offer “life changing rituals”, involving prayer and herbs. A price tag of £350 ($547) would not be uncommon.

But there are some who engage in more sinister practices.

Posing as a couple with financial problems, I visited 10 witch-doctors. All offered herbal potions to end our money worries, but two also made the offer of a ritual involving human blood.

One healer produced a bottle, which was found to contain “human blood, as well as excrement and chemicals”.

Less clear, though, is the extent of the problems documented in the programme. According to the BBC:

The Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, launched in response to the growing numbers, says the ritual murder rate has slowed, citing a figure of 38 cases since 2006.

Pastor Sewakiryanga disputes the police numbers, and says there are more victims from his parish than official statistics for the entire country.

The work of the police task force has been strongly criticised by the UK-based charity, Jubilee Campaign.

It says in a report that the true number of cases is in the hundreds, and claims more than 900 cases have yet to be investigated by the police because of corruption and a lack of resources.

However, while the “900 cases” figure is cited by the Jubliee Campaign, it’s not the source – the report in turn refers to “newspaper reports” from May 2010, specifically an item from a newspaper called the Weekly Message News. This is not available on-line, so can’t be independently assessed.

The material on trafficking, it seemed to me, seemed to risk conflating two separate issues, and this wasn’t helped by the editing. The intro to the programme included the following (from 00:55):

Rogers voice-over on footage of witch-doctor: We expose the witch doctors who offer child sacrifice.

Cut to Rogers listening to voice on phone: …even if you want a hundred, no problem for me.

Rogers: A hundred children? OK.

Rogers voice-over on footage of child trafficker: We uncover the traffickers who abduct children to meet the demand for witch doctors in Africa and abroad.

The casual viewer might think that Rogers was on the phone to the witch-doctor, when in fact the “hundred children” figure has come from the child-trafficker (a certain Yunus Kabul). Further, although Rogers explained that the trafficker “claims to have been selling children for use by witch-doctors”, we don’t see the trafficker say that himself and it was by no means clear that witch-doctors were his primary clients.

As for the UK, the BBC reports that:

Figures compiled by Ecpat, combined with those of the Metropolitan Police and Ceop, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, show that at least 400 African children have been abducted and trafficked to the UK and rescued by the British authorities.

…According to a US State Department report, Uganda has become one of the main source countries for children to be bought and smuggled to Britain. Some 9,000 children have gone missing in the country over the past four years.

The “9,000 children” figure, according to the programme (3:15), comes from a 2010 Ugandan government report; somewhat sloppily, this becomes the “US report” on the website. Rogers states that “many are thought to have been trafficked for juju rituals, including child sacrifice”, although it’s not clear if that conclusion was also part of the report. The testimonies of rescued children speak for themselves, but the programme did not establish now much child trafficking from Africa involves witch-doctors.

The programme also referenced the case of “Adam”, the murdered Nigerian boy whose torso was found by the Thames in 2001, and Rogers says (14:57) that there have been “other cases” of human sacrifice in the UK – I suspect that Rogers is here repeating the mistake, which I discussed here, of conflating sacrifice with the killing of children believed to be witches.

Kamal Saleem Lecture in Midland Prompts Scrutiny

From the Midland Daily News (Michigan) in September:

Self-described “former terrorist” Kamal Saleem will be speaking in Midland on Sunday and Monday as part of an effort to “wake America” to the threat of radical Islam in the United States, an organizer of the event says.

“This man has a unique perspective on things,” said Midland resident Rebecca Smith, a member of Citizens Concerned for Our Nation, the group sponsoring Saleem’s talks at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday at the Midland Center for the Arts.

Saleem is one of several US immigrants of middle eastern background who now make a living from visiting churches and conservative groups with lurid tales of their Muslim pasts – last November, Saleem and his associate Walid Shoebat joined Robert Spencer and Gen “Jerry” Boykin at an anti-Islam “Fort Hood Memorial” event, and Saleem and Boykin also spoke at an event organised by the Oak Initiative, a neo-Pentecostal Christian Right organisation led by Rick Joyner.

However, as with Shoebat, Saleem’s back-story has been challenged:

Saleem’s account of his life has been challenged by Douglas Howard, a professor of history at Calvin College. Howard, via e-mail, pointed to an article he wrote last year about Saleem’s book, “The Blood of Lambs.”

In that article in the Christian literary review Books & Culture, Howard questioned Saleem’s claims that “in my family was the Grand Wazir of Islam.” Howard wrote, “The term is ridiculous, a spurious title meant to mislead the innocent with an aura of authenticity.” In that review, Howard also said he saw “no reason to withdraw” an earlier assessment that Saleem is a “fraud.”

Howard’s review can be seen here. Books & Culture is published by Christianity Today, and Calvin College identifies with the Reformed tradition of Protestanism: this undercuts the usual response when doubts are raised about the likes of Saleem or Shoebat, which is to claim that critics must be left-wing extremists or pro-Islamists.

A certain Shakil Saghir has posted a critical review of Saleem’s presentation at Midland; Saghir challenges both Saleem’s statements about Islam and his purported personal narrative:

And before I end, I would like to write summary of my research on Kamal Saleem. He was born in 1957 and according to his claim, he was recruited by the PLO in Beirut, Lebanon when he was 7 years old, that would be 1964 or 1965. This cannot be true as the PLO was founded on May 28, 1964 in the West Bank and had its first armed wing in Southern Lebanon in 1969 and was not deployed to Beirut until the mid 1970s. His claim that he was a member of both the PLO (a socialist organization with Christians as members [e.g., Hanan Ashravi, George Habash]) and the Muslim Brotherhood (an arch rival of the PLO) and that he met Yasir Arafat, Moammar Gadhafi, Hafiz Al-Asad and Saddam Husain is ridiculous.

Saghir also draws attention to what purport to be statements by Saleem’s nephew, Mohammed Itani, that further debunk his story. The only source I can find for this is two reader comments posted to a blogpost here:

Kamal Saleem is my uncle his real name is Khodor Kamal Al Shami his daughter name is Sara and he is a liar and all the stories about his past is completely fake.I have all legal papers from the Lebanese government that prove my words. he had never entered the Islamic Brotherhood , he was a soufi with Rajabiya . Islamic Brotherhood in lebanon has different name.He used to work with my dad. A guy called Mr. Stockmann helped him to travel to the USA. His old girlfriend name is Juan .She used to sleep at my grandpa’s house but they never tortured her :) . His Father Haj Kamal was a blacksmith that used to work with christian people in Downtown Beirut. All Christians in the old market place know his father as a friend and they used to visit him until his death. His older brother married a christian woman called Madlen Khoury.

Rebecca Smith of Citizens Concerned for Our Nation has responded to the criticisms:

…Citizens Concerned for Our Nation has thoroughly looked at Professor Howard’s review of Kamal Saleem’s memoir, “The Blood of Lambs,” and its members have determined this review to be biased, for whatever reasons we cannot know.

I, personally, have spoken at length with Victoria Saleem, Kamal’s wife, and she has been very helpful and forthcoming with answers to our questions. She also provided contact information for several persons whom they have known for many years. I have had e-mail correspondence with Philis Boultinghouse, senior editor of Howard Books of Simon and Schuster. I have spoken with Lee Hough, literary agent for Lynn Vincent, who co-authored Kamal’s book, “The Blood of Lambs.” I have spoken with Marilyn Cummings, executive secretary to Pastor Mark Cowart, who was Kamal and Victoria’s pastor and is on the Board of Koome Ministries. I have spoken with Pastor Wayne Pendleton, who is also on this board. Every person whom I have contacted holds Kamal Saleem in high regard. With regard to Kamal’s book, nothing has caused Lynn Vincent, Lee Hough or Simon and Schuster to retract the book or any part of it. Lynn Vincent is an investigative journalist in addition to being a writer. Kamal’s story was vetted very carefully. Lynn Vincent also co-authored “Heaven is for Real” with Todd Burpo, and “Never Surrender” with Gen. Jerry Boykin…

In other words, various persons who have a vested interest in Saleem not being debunked are keen for him not to be debunked. The reference to Heaven is for Real as evidence that Kamal’s story has been “vetted very carefully” is particularly risible: the book consists of a little boy’s memories of a near-death experience, which involved a journey to heaven where he encountered dead relatives, the throne room where God the Father sits with Jesus and Gabriel on either side, John the Baptist,  various winged creatures, and Jesus’ “rainbow horse”. II Corinthians 12:2 pales in comparison. Vincent is indeed a journalist (for World magazine), but her work for Burpo, Boykin, and Saleem was as a ghost writer (another of her clients is Sarah Palin).

Pastor Mark Cowart, meanwhile, has featured on this blog previously, when he was named as one of Ted Haggard’s post-scandal counselors. I noted that back in 1999 Cowart had organised a children’s service which involved the mutilation and destruction (with “a blowtorch” and “a 30-inch sword”) of Pokemon dolls, which Cowart had decided were demonic.

Further details about Citizens Concerned for Our Nation have been provided to the Midland Daily News by one of its members, Tina Yoder:

In the early spring of 2010, a concerned parent from Midland Christian School was deeply concerned and burdened for the state of our nation. She felt in her heart that she should call together like-minded people from Midland and surrounding communities to gather for 40 days to pray for our country before the August 2010 primary elections. The Midland Daily News printed an article that invited all people with the same concerns to come together at the Midland County Courthouse on Main Street to pray an hour a day for 40 consecutive days, weekdays from 11 :30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and weekends from 1-2 p.m.

…As the 40 days drew to a close, a small number of us average American citizens felt called to continue this prayer vigil and a new target date of Aug. 28, 2010 was set. …Sept. 17, 2011 will mark 17 consecutive months that we have come together daily to pray. Winter cold, ice and snow and summer heat and rain have not deterred the group from meeting every day in the front of the courthouse.

Doubts Raised About “Christian Rambo” Sam Childers

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Hollywood’s glow is helping turn the Rev. Sam Childers from a self-proclaimed Pennsylvania hillbilly into a global brand. It’s also shining the glare of international scrutiny on his once-obscure Somerset County charity.

The new movie “Machine Gun Preacher” portrays Childers, 49, of Central City as killing paramilitary terrorists with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to rescue children in an African war zone.

His group, operating under several names, including Angels of East Africa, runs orphanages and schools. With help from Hollywood backers, it’s raising money and expanding programs like never before.

The film has garnered considerable media interest: Fox News describes Childers as a “Christian Rambo“, and lead star Gerard Butler was present at the UK premiere at the Mayfair Hotel at the end of September.

I blogged on Childers back in 2006; the Sudan Tribune described him as a “commander” with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, and I was particularly alarmed at his admission that he “stockpiles weapons” for the SPLA at his orphanage, as part of the war against the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review raises the same concern:

Neighbors claim his flagship orphanage in South Sudan is neglecting children, leaving them hungry and crammed into small rooms. Portrayals of Childers’ violent tactics in the movie and his autobiography ignited uproar among advocates and aid workers over whether he might cause more harm than good.

…Some neighbors around Nimule want Childers removed and the orphanage turned over to local leaders. While Childers was on an American publicity tour, Nimule community leaders told a reporter for the magazine Christianity Today that he dishonored his agreement with them. The resulting story detailed a local government inspection that found the orphanage with no food, little medicine and shelters on the verge of collapse.

Those problems are real, said the Rev. Juma John, director of Cornerstone Children’s Home, another American-backed orphanage located less than 2 miles from Childers’ Children’s Village. Community leaders are upset by guns at the compound and that Childers does not stay long to lead it.

The Christianity Today report can be seen here – and it turns out that the SPLA aren’t too keen on being associated with him, either:

…an officer in the SPLA denies any association with Childers, and has asked Childers to stop “staining our names.” According to a letter obtained by CT dated April 8, 2011, Lieutenant General Obuto Mamur Mete told Childers that he had become “a problem,” and urged him to stop “using the names of our authorities, me in particular, to manipulate your wrongdoings.” Mete also told London’s Daily Mail that Childers’s “claims to have fought alongside us are a lie. He has never even seen the LRA.” Childers disputes Mete’s claims, saying that he has fought with the SPLA and against the LRA.

Feuding ex-Defence League Activists

In Norway, Dagbladet reports a strange story about Lena Andreassen, former head of the Norwegian Defence League. Andreassen has reappeared after being reported missing to the police while on a trip to the UK, and the paper has described and published what are alleged to be emails and texts from Alan Lake.

Andreassen came to wider press attention in July following the Utoya massacre: she stated that Anders Breivik had formerly been associated with the NDL (which probably means no more than that he was a forum member), but that she had expelled him on becoming leader because he was “too extreme”. It’s not clear when she herself stepped down from leading the NDL, although a rally she organised in April attracted only a handful of participants (including Darren Lee from the UK – as Darren Marsh, he has commented on my blog here).

Alan Lake, meanwhile, has been described as the English Defence League’s “financier”, although he has stated that his financial involvement has been exaggerated. For their part, the EDL officially repudiated Lake in August, after bad publicity arising from some of his statements.

Dagbladet further reports that Andreassen has been in contact with Paul Ray, another early organizer of the EDL who is now estranged from it. Ray’s interest in “Templar” matters and his “Lionheart” blog-identity prompted media speculation that he may have been the mysterious “mentor” mentioned in Breivik’s manifesto – I explained here why this can’t be the case. Alan Lake was among those pointing the finger, and Ray in turn has accused Lake of being the mentor. However, Lake has no interest in Crusader fetishism, and I’m inclined to the conclusion that Breivik’s “mentor” is a fantasy figure.

The two text messages allegedly from Lake and published in Dagbladet refer to Ray (second image partly obscured by photo flash, missing text taken from article):

[1] Paul Ray? How much must I pay to get rid of him for good?

[2] Try to meet him on a boat, it is better on a boat. But take along some rope and some heavy bricks or something :-) Just in case you need them. [It is always] handy stuff when you are [aboard a boat].

Doubtless Lake (assuming the texts are genuine) is here expressing his annoyance at Ray for accusing him, and for numerous abusive posts on Ray’s blog (some including images that superimpose swastikas onto pictures of Lake).

The texts were allegedly sent on 24 August, and photos of them were apparently forwarded to Ray after Andreassen and Lake themselves fell out (towards the end of September). Further Facebook posts and emails have been reproduced on another blog. Assuming the items are genuine, Lake has accused Andreassen of a breach of confidentially to a journalist which may have put his family at risk, and he has threatened to report her to social services in Norway over her care for her own child. Andreassen has responded by twisting this into the incorrect claim that Lake has threatened her child.

Ray, meanwhile, has cautioned Lake to back off with a typically-modest Biblical quotation:

Psalm 105:15 “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm.”

UPDATE: An interview with Andreassen was published in Dagbladet on 24 October. While her account is vague, she claims that she had traveled to Newcastle to meet friends who were former EDL members, and and that she was held against her will in an apartment for two weeks after overhearing someone making threats on the phone. Further, she now claims that joining the NDL was the “stupidest thing” she had ever done, and that she is not against “ordinary” Muslim immigrants to Norway.

Sovereign Military Order of Malta Loses US Trademark Case; Accused of “Fraud” in Application Process

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’ve found this press release from the US law firm Holland & Knight:

Holland & Knight successfully defended client The Florida Priory of Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, the Ecumenical Order against charges of trademark infringement, false advertising and unfair competition issues.

On September 29, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled in favor of the firm’s client, bringing to close an unusual case that featured testimony on the activities of Napoleon, Tsar Paul I of Russia and other historical figures.

The charges were brought by the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (SMOM), a Catholic non-profit international organization that shares a similar background and mission with The Florida Priory. Both organizations trace their histories to the eleventh century and provide charitable and humanitarian services, however, The Florida Priory is a chapter of an ecumenical Christian organization not affiliated with the Catholic Church. Its headquarters is in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The SMOM is a high-profile Roman Catholic organisation; as its website notes, it “maintains formal diplomatic relations with over 100 States and International Organisations. It is also recognised by the United Nations, and by the Holy See.”

That cuts no ice in Florida, though:

…In the end, the District Court dismissed all of the claims against The Florida Priory and instead, found that SMOM had obtained four of its trademarks by engaging in fraud during the application process. The court ordered those trademarks, which include the phrases, “Knights of Malta,” “Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, “Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem,” and “Order of Saint John of Jerusalem” cancelled.

The court found that SMOM ignored the rights of The Florida Priory and its parent international organization (which the court acknowledged had commenced operations in the U.S. 18 years before SMOM) in its PTO applications by stating that it knew of no other entity using the marks even though SMOM was aware of the parent organization and The Florida Priory. The court also found that since the two organizations share a common history prior to 1798, references to that history are appropriate and do not constitute false advertising under The Lanham Act.

The rival “Ecumenical Order” has a “Royal Protector” in Prince Enrique de Borbon y Garcia-Lobez, but the “Prince Grand Master”, as I noted yesterday, is a businessman named Nicholas Papanicolaou, author of Islam vs the United States. The “Grand Chancellor”, meanwhile, is Lt. Gen William G. “Jerry” Boykin, a well-known Christian Right activist and a contributor to the report Shariah: The Threat to America, published by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. A “Deputy Member of the Supreme Council” is the neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner, and Joyner claims that his books are in part responsible for a “spiritual renewal” in the Order. Boykin and Papanicolaou are in turn board members of Joyner’s neo-Pentecostal Christian Right outfit, the Oak Initiative.

Last year, Boykin and Papanicolaou published an aggressively anti-Muslim (and anti-Obama) fundraising letter for the Order:

The Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security recently swore in two devout Muslims in senior posts…. Was it not “Devout Muslim men” that flew planes into U.S. buildings 9 years ago? Was it not a Devout Muslim who killed 14 at Fort Hood?

……Our Order and its predecessor going back to the 11th century AD, always made protection of Christians and our Judeo-Christian culture its main purpose. Will you help us with your contribution, so that we can help those in the United States who can raise awareness of the danger confronting us and our Constitution?

Obviously, it will not be helpful if SMOM is mistakenly associated with this kind of rhetoric.

The “Ecumenical Order” has posted a statement explaining its “history and rights”:

…As the heir and continuator of the original Order of the Knights of St John which made Russia its base after 1798, OSJ regrets the apparent confusion in SMOM’s announcement regarding OSJ’s history and rights.

OSJ notes that, unlike SMOM, it receives no government support and yet over the last three years alone has donated more than $60 million in medicines and medical supplies around the world…

This record is made possible through our very low overhead costs and the absence of official diplomatic relations with other nations, which would necessitate the maintenance of expensive embassies whose benefit to the local needy and poor is highly questionable. Like SMOM, which has been granted observer status at the United Nations as an NGO, OSJ hopes to also be recognised by the UN.

OSJ vigorously defends and supports Christians in nations where Christianity is under attack at present, such as Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria and others. Such support is carried out with medical supplies and through appearances in international media such as Fox and CNN, where OSJ Knights speak out frequently in defence of Christians and of our Judeo-Christian laws and values. In doing so publicly, OSJ is probably unique among the many Orders of St John…

The issue of dispute is what happened after 1798, when Napoleon invaded Malta and the Order of Saint John was forced to leave the island. The SMOM website lists the line of succession during this period as follows:

71 Fra’ Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim 1797 – 1802
72 Emperor Paul I of Russia (de facto) 1799 – 1801
73 Fra’ Giovanni Battista Tommasi 1803 – 1805

After this there was no Grand Master until 1879, although Tommasi nominated Innico Maria Guevara-Suardo as “lieutenant general” to follow him, and this was confirmed by Pope Pius VII. A permanent base was established in France from 1834.

The Ecumenical Order, by contrast, lists Tsar Paul as becoming Grand Master in 1798, but after 1801 there is a break until 1913, at which point Grand Duke Alexander of Russia is listed. After him comes a second break, from 1933 to 1960, when an American named Crolian Edelen de Burgh appears.

An essay by the historian Jonathan Riley-Smith has some further background (1):

The Hospital of St John has to endure the illegitimate and eccentric grand mastership of Tsar Paul I, who was not Roman Catholic, celibate, professed or recognized by the Holy See…

As for the Russian branch:

This had been abolished by Paul’s successor, but in nineteenth-century Russia there was considerable interest in its traditions among the descendants of its original commanders…. Romantic interest manifested itself in foundations outside Russia after the Revolution, which through fission have multiplied into no less than 27 separate bodies…

A Russian group did continue to exist, though, and a Russian Grand Priory was established in Paris after 1917, with exiled Russian hereditary knights.

The claims of what is now known as the “Ecumenical Order” are disputed by Guy Stair Sainty, author of The Orders of Saint John (“published by the Most Venerable Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of which HM Queen Elizabeth II is Sovereign Head”). Sainty wrote a critical letter to Rick Joyner 2000, after Joyner published a booklet on the Order called Courage that Changed the World (1997).

The story is somewhat obscure, but the St John of Jerusalem Research Web Site (run by Rev Michael Foster, representing the British Priory of the Paris-based Russian Grand Priory) describes Joyner’s group as “essentially an offshoot of an ‘Order’ which began in 1953 founded by a Charles Pichel but claiming its origin in 1908 in the USA”:

Earlier in the 20th Century semi-masonic organisations of “Knights” emerging out of the Orange Lodges (The Black Association) had set up in North America. Arthur T. Lamson led such a group called “The Knights of Malta”, which allegedly had registered itself as a Corporation in the State of Jersey in 1911. However by 1912 the group had become defunct, with the members reconciling with another group which they had left previously.

The incorporation of 1911, which had been gained by the “Knights of Malta” as led by Arthur T. Lamson had lain dormant, even though the group had ceased to exist. The archivist of the “Knights of Malta” Order, had been a Dr. Bullock who was consulted by Pichel. Dr. Bullock died, with the records held by Pichel. Armed with these records, Pichel developed a whole prehistory for a new group he founded or with which he was connected. Adding to the claim to have been founded in America in 1908, he improved on the Orange Order background by mimicking the foundation of the Paris group, complete with its Russian Hereditary Commanders. 

Crolian Edelen de Burgh was a close associate of Pichel (a far-right activist [2]), but eventually fell out with him and denounced his claims. Further:

In the 1970s “Prince” Roberto Paterno Castello who had been the Grand Master of the Pichel Order (1979 – 1992) left to become Grand Master of his own Order. The Canadian Grand Priory of the Paterno Order had for its Grand Prior, Frendo Cumbo, who in the mid-late 1990s formed his own Order of St John, of which he occupies the elevated position as Grand Master.

Paterno is listed on the Ecumenical Order website as following de Burgh from 1974-1993; he was followed by Prince George Korey-Krzeczowski from 1993-1997, at which point Cumbo is listed. The St John Research Web Site author (presumably Foster) complains about Joyner’s “apologetics… on behalf of the Cumbo ‘Order'”, and he accuses Cumbo of falsely claiming to be a hereditary knight. Cumbo died in 2006; he was succeeded for a few months “pro tem” by a certain Adrian Busietta, after which Papanicolaou took charge.

**

(1) Jonathan Riley-Smith (2007), “Towards a History of Military-Religious Orders”, in Karl Borchardt, Nikolas Jaspert, Helen J. Nicholson (eds), The Hospitallers, the Mediterranean and Europe: Festschrift for Anthony Luttrell (Ashgate: Aldershot), pp. 269-284.

(2) See Russ Bellant (1991), Old Nazis, The New Right, and the Republican Party (Political Research Associates: Cambridge MA), p. 45: “Pichel [was] an adviser (via correspondence from the US) to Hitler aide Ernst Hanfstaengl. Pichel’s Order is a secret society led by anti-Semites who have worked with the quasi-Nazi Liberty Lobby and with neofascist Lyndon LaRouche groups”. Further, a Winter 1986 report from Covert Action Information Bulletin (reposted on some dubious websites) explains that:

The Shickshinny Order, officially called “The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem,” has been headed by Col. Thourot Pichel in Shickshinny, Pennsylvania, although a few years ago the Order was torn by serious internal rifts between Pichel and the late Frank Capell, Contributing Editor of the John Birch Society’sReview of the News. (See, Rev. Anthony Cekada, Light on the OSJ, from the Oyster Bay, New York The Roman Catholic, December 1981, for an article critical of the Order and discussing some of its recent history.) It traces its legitimacy from a dispute during the time the Order spent in Russia under Czar Paul after it fled Malta. This Order achieved some notoriety a few years ago when it officially recognized the claims of controversial defector Michael Goleniewski to be Aleksei Romanoff, heir to the Russian Imperial House of Romanoff.

The case would be less interesting if James Angleton were not one of the principal supporters of Goleneiwski and some extremely rightwing members of the military intelligence community were not listed as members in a document issued by the Order in 1970. The Order listed as members of its Military Affairs Committee, under the Chairmanship of Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd, Maj. Gen. Charles A. Willoughby, Brig. Gen. Bonner Fellers, and Gen. Pedro A. del Valle…

Of course, there is no suggestion that just because two past Grand Masters of what is now the Ecumenical Order (Crolian Edelen de Burgh and Roberto Paterno) had links to the Pichel Order that the current Ecumenical Order therefore shares any of Pichel’s political views.

UPDATERebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log has more, relating what appears to be a court document. It has further details of the Ecumenical Order’s version of its past:

…In this version of events, the Russian Grand Priory continued in Russia until the Bolshevik revolution, at which time its headquarters moved from St. Petersburg to the United States. It held its first US meeting in 1908, claiming the title of Knights of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, and also referring to itself as a Grand Priory of the Order of the Knights of Malta and the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The Ecumenical Order incorporated as “The Knights of Malta, Inc.” in New Jersey in 1911, changed its name to “Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem” in 1953, and was succeeded in interest in 1956 by a Delaware corporation, the “Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Inc.” In 1958, the Ecumenical Order registered SOVEREIGN ORDER OF SAINT JOHN OF JERUSALEM AND KNIGHTS OF MALTA. The Governor of Indiana issued proclamation in 1977 declaring a “Dedication Day” in recognition of the contributions of the Ecumenical Order. The Ecumenical Order has used its names in the US since 1911 and has associations and members in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.

Disputes led the Ecumenical Order to sever ties with the group that controlled the Delaware corporation in 1981, and after that the Ecumenical Order operated as an unincorporated entity. Over time, the Russian Grand Priory came to be known as Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, the Ecumenical Order. The “Ecumenical Order” language was added in 2002 to distinguish the Ecumenical Order from SMOM. The Florida Priory was formed as early as 1992 and incorporated in Florida in 2005.