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.